Salmon Patties, Mustard Shallot Cream Sauce, and Cooking with Kids

I feel so very 1950's when I make Salmon Patties.  Loaf.  Croquettes.  I think I should host a ladies' luncheon, serve the food on trays in the Sun Room, and then play bridge.  In pearls and high heels, of course.

"Salmon is heart healthy."  Yes indeed, it is.  It's also darn tasty.  And the real deal, the wild-caught fish, is usually rather spendy for a large (or medium) family.  Have you ever bought canned salmon?  Get ON it.  It's good stuff. 

Salmon patties makes an otherwise expensive dinner into an affordable, delicious luxury.  It's also a really, really good reason to eat something that's fried in butter and olive oil.

Most of you know I have a half-dozen kids in my house.  They all belong to me, they are all adorable and well-behaved, and they all bring constant joy and pleasure to my life.  I am always organized and cheerful with them, homeschooling, crafting, exploring and enjoying every single day with them.

Or not.  Reality?  Seven people in the house, 24/7, joined by Mr. during the non-work hours.  They get sick, they fight, they make buckets of mess and noise, and generate endless rounds of meals and laundry.  Yet, somehow, every single day we get up and start all over again.  Because, truly, the fun and joy part is true.

What on earth does this have to do with Salmon Patties??????

My 7 (almost 8) year old daughter loves to do what Mom is doing.  Poor kid, she'll never be crafty or learn to sew, but she'll cook well, read lots of books, and dance in the kitchen.  Tonight, as in most nights, she wanted to "help with dinner."  At the Sassy house that means the real deal, not just setting the table.

Don't ever hesitate to get your kids in on the action.  They CAN handle knives!  We give our kids pocket knives for the 5th birthdays, and teach them how to use them, so why can't they use a good knife in the kitchen?  It's no more dangerous than riding a a bike or climbing a tree.  The sooner they learn proper technique and careful handling, the sooner they will be safe AND helpful.

Last week, I was under the weather.  And I needed soup.  My 10 year old boy peeled and chopped all the carrots, onions and celery for the soup.  Fine young man, he is.

My girly minced shallots tonight, whisked the roux, added each ingredient, and tasted the sauce.  She likes good food and knows what things ought to taste like, so she can take a bit and say "more salt, add some lemon, too thick" with fairly accurate results.  Often, we call the 15 year old boy into the action, because he has a highly developed sense of what good food is all about.  At 12 months, this kid was eating hot salsa and snacking on sardines.  These are the people you need to trust.  When he says "more pepper" we add more pepper.

It's repeated often, but when kids help cook and taste, they will be more likely to eat.  If they make the salad dressing, they will eat the salad.  If they chop the vegetables, they will eat the vegetables.  Go ahead and say nay, but have you really put it to the test?

Here's tonight's dinner.  This recipe uses two 15 ounce cans of salmon, and it makes plenty of patties for my family of eight.  You can make them larger, like hamburger, patties and serve them on buns, or make them smaller like I do and serve them with a sauce.  We also had rice and a salad, and it all got eaten and we walked away satisfied.  I'll say that a patty or two leftover is bliss the next morning, next to a fried egg and a slice of toast. 

One word about canned salmon.  I drain it, but I do NOT remove the skin or the bones.  Yep.  It all gets mashed up and formed into patties, and there are soooo many good things in the skin and bones.  Good fat, calcium, and most of all - flavor.  If you want to spend the time peeling off the skin and picking out the bones, go right ahead.  You'll get over it the next couple of times you make this. 

Salmon Patties

2 - 14.75 or 15 ounce cans pink salmon, drained
2 beaten eggs
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 cup bread crumbs (I used panko)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped (or 1 tablespoon dried)
grated zest and juice of one lemon
big pinch of salt, grinding of black pepper
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

In a large bowl, mix all except the butter and oil.  Use your hands!  Shape into desired size - "burger" sized for buns, or smaller.

In a large skillet, on medium-high heat, melt the butter and oil together.  When it stops foaming, add as many patties to the pan that will fit without crowding.  If they crowd, they won't brown.  It usually takes 3 batches to fry all the patties.  After 4-5 minutes, carefully turn each patty and brown on the other side for a few minutes.  Drain on paper towels and keep warm until serving.  Tonight, my recipe made 16 patties.

Mustard Shallot Cream Sauce

2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 tablespoons butter
1 - 1/2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup dry white wine or vermouth
1 cup heavy cream or half and half
1 tablespoon Dijon or grainy mustard
a pinch of dried tarragon
salt and pepper to taste
lemon juice to finish, optional

In a sauce pan on medium heat, saute the shallots in the butter.  Add the flour and using a whisk, stir, cooking for a minute or two.  Add the wine and whisk to incorporate.  Add the cream, mustard, tarragon, salt and pepper.  Cook over medium low, stirring, for 3-4 minutes.  If the sauce seems to thick, add a few tablespoons of water.  Taste for seasoning.  Add a splash of lemon juice at the end if you want to brighten up the flavor.  Serve over salmon patties.  This sauce is also great over chicken, any fish, or pork tenderloin.

(NOTE:  If you prefer a traditional "tartar" type of sauce, simply mix 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, and 1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish.  My younger kids prefer the tartar sauce!)