Each year at the cusp of summer end/autumn begin, I get a little nostalgic about my childhood and the meals that I remember and loved the most. We kids were going back to school; our parents were re-establishing our school year routine; the memories of summer were starting to fade; and the time change from daylight-savings time was looming. The weekday breakfasts would become quick and filling to get the kids off to school and the parents off to work. There was no time to linger. However, on the weekends, there was time to linger… and time to enjoy heartier breakfasts of which my favorite was Salmon Croquettes and Grits.
I think that my Mother makes THE best salmon croquettes. Her croquettes always fried up crisp on the outside; moist on the inside; and they never had a strong fishy odor or flavor. She always used Royal Pink Wild Alaska canned pink salmon. If you have never used canned salmon, beware that when you open the can, this stuff does not look pretty and bright coral like fresh salmon. It may even have the bones and skin still attached; but that is okay. The bones and skin are rich in omega 3 fatty acids – a nutritional powerhouse. Once you mash the skin and bones up into the batter, you will not be able to discern them in the croquettes.
I was an adult before I would make salmon croquettes. After a few heavy dull croquettes, I found that there are three tricks to making the best croquettes. First, use a light and deft hand to avoid over mixing. Second, make sure the oil is nice and hot before frying to ensure a crispy crust. Third, and lastly, do not over crowd the pan while cooking, which will reduce the oil temperature.
Growing up, my Mother only used diced onions to her croquettes. I have added diced capers to my version. I have also switched out the white grits for the more festive colorful yellow grits. I also serve this dish with lime wedges and sriracha. As for cooking the grits, I adhere to the mantra that “no self-respecting Southerner uses instant grits.” (My Cousin Vinny)
My Recipe: SALMON CROQUETTES AND GRITS serves 2-3
For Salmon Croquettes:
1 – 7.5oz can Royal Pink Wild Alaska salmon, do not drain
¼ c finely diced yellow onion
1 T finely diced capers
3 – 4 T all-purpose flour
1 large egg
ground black pepper
canola oil, for frying
½ c yellow grits or white grits, not instant
2 ½ c water
1 t kosher salt
1 T unsalted butter, optional
lime wedges, optional
For the Grits: (Use a pot with a tight-fitting lid.)
Add grits, water, and kosher salt to a saucepan over medium-high heat; stir with a whisk until pot comes to a boil; immediately lower heat to a simmer; cover pot with a tight fitting lid; cook on low for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent lumps from forming
When grits are creamy and thick; remove from heat; stir in butter; and season to taste
While grits are simmering, pour enough canola oil into a frying pan to coat the bottom by ½ “ in depth; heat over medium-high heat
Combine ingredients for croquette – LIGHT AND DEFT HAND, AVOID OVER MIXING; croquette batter should be thick, but not stiff; if it is too loose; add a teaspoon more of all-purpose flour
Spoon batter, 2 tablespoonfuls per croquette, approximately 1/8 of a cup, into the hot oil; fry for 2 minutes until the edges began to form bubbles and pop; after bubbles stop forming, gently flip the croquettes over and cook for another 2 minutes until golden brown
Remove cooked croquettes to a cooling rack over a sheet pan or to a plate lined with towels; serve immediately with lime wedges and sriracha, optional
Unlike my childhood, I sometimes make salmon croquettes and grits for dinner… with a side of garlicky sautéed broccoli rabe, turnips, or kale. I could make the dish more “elegant” with seared fresh salmon and creamy polenta enriched with Parmigiano Reggiano…. But WHY? I find the taste and smell of fresh salmon too fishy and I really dont like texture and flavor of fresh salmon.
Besides, too many modifications make the dish less about the comfort and the nostalgia that evokes the memories of childhood.
always in good T.A.S.T.E – cause you gottatastethis!