Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Salmon Croquettes

Say "salmon croquettes" in my family and you see faces lift, eyes light up, and virtual tails wag, like a dog that has scented a rabbit. Salmon croquettes are one of my mother's specialties and a universal favourite on the supper table. They are also a "company's coming" dish—unusual, attractive, comforting, and delicious.

They are easy to make, but require some time in the fridge to stiffen up, so it's ideal to do most of the preparation earlier in the day (or the night before) so that all you have to do is deep fry them for a few minutes just before serving. And they are frugal, stretching one can of sockeye salmon to feed four people.

I've tweaked it a bit, adding onion, celery, and dill to punch up the flavour a bit, but this is essentially my mother's recipe.

Salmon Croquettes

Serves 4 (2 croquettes each)
Note: Please don't substitute pink salmon for the sockeye. The deep red color and rich flavour of sockey are really needed here.

1 cup (aproximately) canned sockeye salmon (I just use a 213gr tin)
1/2  small or medium onion, very finely minced or grated (optional*)
1/2 stalk celery, very finely minced or grated (optional)
1 teaspoon  lemon juice
1 tablespoon  parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons dill, chopped
1 teaspoon  salt
1/2 teaspoon  pepper
1 pinch cayenne pepper
3/4 cup  oatmeal
2 tablespoons  butter
4 tablespoons  flour
1 cup  milk
2  eggs, beaten
1 cup  bread crumbs

* The original recipe called for 1/8 teaspoon grated onion(!), so Mom opts to omit it and I add more.

  1. Drain the salmon and put it in a medium to large bowl. Flake it, crushing any bones with your fingers. (You can remove the bones and skin if you want, but I never do. It's a waste of good calcium and bulk.)
  2. Add the minced onion and celery, the oatmeal, and the parsley, dill, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly, then set aside while you make the white sauce.
  3. In a small saucepan or in the microwave, heat the milk until little bubbles begin to form. Don't let it boil. The point is to heat it up to minimize lumps in the sauce.
  4. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and then add the flour, stirring for a couple of minutes to cook it and get rid of the ray flour taste.
  5. Gradually add the heated milk to the roux of butter and flour, whisking all the time. Continue whisking as the sauce thickens and cooks, for about 5 minutes.
  6. Add the white sauce to the salmon and mix thoroughly. Cover with cling film and put into the fridge for an hour or two to let the mix stiffen up so it is easier to handle and shape. The stiffer the mixture, the easier it is to roll, shape, and bread.
  7. While the salmon mixture chills, whisk the 2 eggs in a bowl and pour a cup of breadcrumbs onto a plate.
  8. After the salmon mixture has stiffened, take it out of the fridge and divide the mixture into 8 (more or less) even balls. Oil your hands with some vegetable oil, and roll each ball into a cylinder. 
  9. Roll the cylinder in the bread crumbs, then into the beaten eggs, and then in the bread crumbs again. Be gentle, but make sure everything gets a double coat of bread crumbs, including the ends. 
  10. Lay the croquettes on a plate and cover with cling film, then put it in the fridge again. 
  11. When you are ready to cook the croquettes, remove them from the fridge. Pour a vegetable oil that can withstand high temperatures, such as peanut oil,  in a deep sauce pan or deep fryer (if you're lucky enough to have one) to a depth of about 3 inches. Heat it to 170C (350F).
  12. Adding 2-3 croquettes at a time (depending on the size of your pan), fry them for about 3-4 minutes until they have turned golden brown on the outside and are heated through on the inside.
  13. Drain on paper towels and then serve. 

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