Smoked Salmon Fish Cakes with Yogurt-Cilantro Sauce

Homemade smoky salmon fish cakes

It’s not a good sign, when it’s early December and I am ready for a time-out.  It feels like we are on a holiday train with no stopping until 2010.  Don’t get me wrong, I am all for a good celebration, but right now I welcome a cozy night in with no plans, no cocktails and no make-up.  On a night like this, I like to make savory, comfort food.  One family favorite is Smoked Salmon Fish Cakes.  Now to some, this may not be the first comfort food choice to leap to mind, but to me, a salty, crispy, smoky fish cake is the perfect RX for too many holiday engagements.

In my eternal search for the perfect fish cake, I found the best way to get the results I craved was to create my own recipe which had all of the right elements.  This ideal fishcake is packed with fish, has little filler and is not mushy.  It’s salty and piquant with just a little onion sweetness, bursting with fresh herbs and studded with bits of chile.  Dipped in a garlicky Yogurt-Cilantro Sauce spiked with harissa, this dish falls in the addictive category with everyone reaching for more.

Smoked Salmon Fish Cakes

Makes  about 16  2-inch diameter cakes

1 1/2 pounds salmon filets, skinned, pin bones removed
1/4 pounds smoked salmon
1 3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
One small onion grated with juices, about 1/4 cup
2 scallions, ends trimmed, minced
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
2  tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (coriander)
2 tablespoons Greek-style whole milk yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Tabasco, to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Yogurt-Cilantro Sauce (see below)

Combine salmon filets and smoked salmon in bowl of food processor.  Pulse to chop without over processing.  The consistency should be finely chopped without becoming mushy.
Transfer salmon to a large bowl.  Add 1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs, onion  with juices, scallions, parsley and cilantro.  Mix with a fork to combine.  Add yogurt, lemon juice, tabasco, pepper.  Stir to combine.
Pour remaining 1 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl.  Using a soup spoon scoop out a generous amount of salmon mixture.  Carefully form it into a plump 2″ patty with your hands.  Roll cake in Panko to cover.  Place on platter.  Repeat with remaining salmon.  Add more Panko to bowl if necessary.  (Patties can be formed up to 3 hours before cooking.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate.)

Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in skillet over medium-high heat.  Add fish cakes in one layer.  Fry until browned, turning once, about 3 minutes per side.  Use a spatter guard to prevent oil from spattering.  Transfer cakes to a plate lined with paper towel to drain.  Repeat with remaining salmon mixture.
Transfer cakes to pre-warmed serving platter.  Garnish with lemon wedges and parsley leaves.  Serve with Yogurt-Cilantro Sauce.

Yogurt-Cilantro Sauce:

1 cup Greek-style whole milk  yogurt
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1-2 teaspoons Harissa sauce, to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro/coriander

Combine all the ingredients, except cilantro, in a medium bowl.  Stir to combine.  (Sauce can be made up to 4 hours before serving.  Cover and refrigerate.)  Before serving, stir in fresh cilantro.