A can of salmon, or a piece of leftover cooked salmon, makes a fine snack or sandwich filling with little further preparation. Alternatively, if you have a little more time and energy at your disposal -- and want an economical lunch for the family -- you can turn that same portion of salmon into salmon cakes. Once made, the cakes can be cooked and served immediately or frozen for later consumption.
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Pattycake, Pattycake Fisher Man
How you make your salmon cakes is largely a matter of personal preference, but most recipes follow a similar pattern. Your main ingredient of course is salmon, whether canned, smoked, left over or -- if you have it on hand -- scrupulously fresh and uncooked. Cooked or canned salmon should be coarsely mashed, and fresh salmon finely diced or chopped. You'll add a starchy binder such as breadcrumbs or mashed potatoes, an egg to hold it all together, and a variety of flavorings such as minced onion, fresh herbs, chopped capers or spice mixtures. Finally, shape the mixture into patties and coat the patties in breadcrumbs.
Cold and Raw
In most cases, freezing uncooked salmon cakes is your best option. When you cook them later, they'll taste just as good as their fresh-made counterparts. Instead of breading the patties, lay them out on one or more parchment-lined baking sheets and cover them loosely with plastic wrap. Freeze the patties in a single layer, then remove your sheets from the freezer. Wrap the cakes individually in plastic wrap and then combine them into a freezer bag or container, so you can take out only as many as you need at a given meal. Alternatively, stack the patties in their container or bag with squares of wax paper or parchment between them.
Toasty and Golden
Fully prepared fish cakes won't last as long in the freezer without developing a funky "freezer" taste, but they're sometimes convenient because they can be quickly reheated in your microwave or toaster oven on days when you don't feel like frying. Mini-salmon cakes are especially good as a quick appetizer, to buy you some meal-preparation time. Simply finish the cakes according to your favorite recipe, then set them on a wire rack to cool. As soon as they reach room temperature, freeze them in a single layer on a baking sheet, and package them in heavy-duty freezer bags or containers.
Thawing, Reheating and Food Safety
Salmon is highly perishable, like any other fish, so you'll need to handle it carefully. Once your patties are made up, refrigerate or freeze them immediately. If you make yours with fresh salmon, be sure to wash your hands, utensils and work surfaces scrupulously before and afterwards to reduce the risk of cross-contamination. Thaw your salmon cakes overnight in the refrigerator, or better yet cook them directly from frozen, which minimizes opportunities for bacteria to flourish in the nutrient-rich environment of the cakes. You can thaw them in your microwave, in a pinch, but they should be cooked immediately. Always heat your salmon cakes to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.