I've been struggling with pan frying cakes and patties of all varieties for a long time now. They never turn out right - sometimes they stick, sometimes they fall apart, sometimes they burn to a crisp. But tonight I asked my husband for advice, knowing that he has a tendency to remember everything he reads (but nothing I say) and that he read Russ Parson's How to Read a French Fry a thousand years ago when it first came out. Parson's book is all about kitchen science, and I seem to remember it deals with sticky patties.
"Protein molecules will stick to the pan until they have been cooked long enough to denature the protein," he told me. So this time I strictly followed the frying time recommended by my recipe, and actually set a timer to really get it right. And low and behold, it worked. The patties didn't stick, they didn't burn (once I turned the heat down low enough) and they didn't fall apart.
And as an extra bonus, both my children gobbled them up and asked for more. As usual, my daughter ate her salad and my son did not. "No," he told me, " salad has vegetables in it. I don't like vegetables". I did manage to get him to swallow two bites after bribing him with strawberries, though.
But whatever, we managed to polish off nearly an entire bag of produce box lettuce, along with some cilantro and mint. I've found that sometimes the key to a really good salad is tossing in a couple small handfuls of whatever fresh herbs I happen to have around. They add just enough to push lettuce past the edge of humdrum and boring to unusual, exciting and delicious. So far I have yet to find an herb combo that falls flat, though really strong flavored ones (like sage) should be used in moderation.
As for the chives, grow a pot of them outside your kitchen door. Otherwise they molder in the bottom of the fridge and get slimy. Yuck!
Salmon Cakes with Greens: (adapted from Epicurious.com)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon chopped shallots
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, divided
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 pound salmon fillet, skin removed, finely chopped
2 egg whites
5 tablespoons drained capers
1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoon olive oil, twice
4-8 cups lettuce or mixed salad, depending on who will be eating
2 small handfuls of herbs
Mix together the mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon shallots, 1 teaspoon mustard, buttermilk and juice in a bowl, then set aside. This is the dressing for your salad.
Chop and wash your salad greens and herbs, dry them, wrap them in a towel, place in a plastic bag and put in the fridge. You can even do this a few days in advance.
In a larger bowl, combine salmon, egg whites, the remaining 1/4 cup shallots, capers, breadcrumbs, remaining 1 tsp mustard, salt and pepper. Mix well and shape into eight 3-inch-round patties. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook four salmon cakes until their bottoms are golden, about 6 minutes. The cakes will not be easy to remove from the pan until they are fully cooked, so resist the urge to scrape at them if they don't come up in one piece, and make sure to turn down the heat if your pan starts to smoke. When your time is up, flip and cook until golden, 5 minutes more. Toss greens with half the buttermilk mixture; divide salad among 4 plates; top each with 2 salmon cakes. Garnish with a dollop of crème fraîche or mayo and a sprinkle of chives. Serve with remaining dressing on the side.