Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Pantry Fish Cakes

Working in a grocery store has given me ample opportunity to muse on various food items, recipes and general merriment in the kitchen. In fact, a good 80% of my work day consists of me daydreaming about what I can make when I get home, my next day off, and/or when I wake up the next day. (I currently work overnights stocking the grocery shelves at the local Wal-Mart. Trust me, my brain is not at all required for anything more than making sure I don't eviscerate myself with a box cutter.)

This daydreaming, however, can get downright weird.

Case in point, recently I have asked myself, on multiple occasions, what WOULD one do with a can of salmon? I ask myself this for two reasons. One, I LOOOOOVE salmon. Two... I absolutely cannot afford salmon. Remember, I bought a meat package. Splurging on more protein at over twice the price just isn't fiscally wise. In fact, it's just dumb. So I daydream about salmon... cheap salmon.

Now, it was immediately apparent that my go-to "sear-on-stove, finish-in-oven" preparation for fresh salmon was inadequate for this particular variant of my favorite seafood. I'd need to think of something new.

In my multiple hours of musing on this particular topic (yeah... I get bored) I had a brief epiphany when I remembered this recipe that I bookmarked months ago when I was daydreaming about a future wherein I COULD afford fresh salmon.

Upon further reflection, I decided that the salmon in the can probably has a decidedly different texture from that of fresh salmon. I imagined the salmon in the can to be more like tuna in a can (as they are both canned fish, I believe this constitutes a wild intuitive leap). I still thought I could make something tasty, even though I'd be straying far from what most people would call a "burger".

And here we are, after several days of mentally writing and re-writing a recipe in my head, I hit on one final dilemma.

"Michael," I said to myself, "why the fuck are you thinking about buying a can of salmon?"

Seriously, on top of the aforementioned meat package, my pantry is FULL. I'm talking two large shelves filled to overflowing with pantry items. Other than regular bills and day-to-day necessities (soap, toothpaste, tissues, etc.) just about the only thing I've spent money on for the past six months has been food. And yet, I still go grocery shopping every week.

So today I put my foot down. I said, "Michael... if you think canned salmon is a lot like canned tuna, then you should make this recipe with the canned tuna you have at home, you freaking geek. And once you eat your way through the cornucopia of options you have at home, THEN you can buy a freaking can of salmon."



So, you know how the crappiest restaurant crab cakes are still pretty darn tasty? That's what I've managed to concoct here. A pretty decent fish cake with ingredients I've got around the house.

1 (5 oz) can tuna, drained VERY well. (I just used cheap tuna packed in water. I don't know what would happen if you used imported Italian tuna packed in olive oil. I can't afford that crap either.)
1 egg yolk (I contemplated using an entire egg but thought that might turn the whole thing into a breakfast patty.)
1 tsp soy sauce (I ALWAYS use soy sauce instead of salt when I'm making something with canned tuna).
1/2 tsp dried dill
1/4 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tsp dijon mustard
2 tsp mayonnaise
2 tsp minced celery
1 tsp minced capers (Substitute the same amount of minced pickles of your favorite variety here if you don't have/don't like capers.)
1 small clove of garlic, minced (This is one of those glorious moments when you can use one of the tiny cloves in the center of the head of garlic that are usually just a pain in the ass.)
1 Tbsp grated parmesan
1 Tbsp plain dry breadcrumbs (Any and all forms of breadcrumbs can be substituted here. Fresh, whole wheat, panko, Italian seasoned, whatever you have on hand should do the trick.)

Mix everything together really well.

Form the whole mess into 1 large patty if you're having it on a sandwich. Or you can split the mixture up into two or three smaller patties if you'd rather have them appetizer-style or on a salad or some such silliness.
(I pressed mine into a small 1/2 cup plastic container and it made a lovely "fish cake" shape.)
Heat a non-stick pan with 2 tsp butter over medium-low heat until the butter melts and any foaming subsides. Saute the patties for 4 minutes per side until each side turns a nice golden brown. (I didn't take a picture, but I actually put a couple thin slices of sharp cheddar on mine after I flipped it.)
I would have liked some tartar sauce, but I'm out of pickles. I also would have liked some lettuce, tomatoes, etc. but I didn't have any of those either. I'm also intrigued by the idea of a schmear of good (read: spicy) cocktail sauce. But that's for future attempts. Ultimately, this lunch was delightful as it was.

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