FRIDAY FISH: Caprese Salmon Burgers

Looking for Easter recipes? Try: Italian-Style Braised Leg of Lamb or Bake a Ham… or Asparagus for Lunch, Asparagus for Dinner or Carrot Cake Cupcakes or How To Make a Quiche out of Anything or Czech Easter Bread.

Come summer and time to cook outside, I stock our freezer with easily and quickly grilled proteins like chicken thighs and legs, bone-in pork chops, and sirloin steak for kebobs. Then all I have to do is talk my husband into firing up the grill, make a salad, and we’re soon ready eat. And while I’m happiest with all kinds of freshly made burgers if it’s a burger night, it’s also nice to have some pre-made frozen ones for those times when desperation is the mother of invention. A resealable bag of salmon burgers is usually at the top of my warm weather grocery list. I even keep whole-wheat skinny buns frozen, too, as they last a few weeks if well-wrapped and thaw in no time at all. What’s cool is you are SUPPOSED to cook these particular salmon burgers frozen–no thawing needed, no thawing allowed. Yes!

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Because I typically have a few of those in the freezer, I hadn’t thought a lot about making scratch salmon burgers. But when Dorie Greenspan’s stellar book EVERYDAY DORIE came out a couple of years ago, I immediately spied what I knew was a great salmon burger recipe that came with a fun story to boot. I had forgotten it a little, but recently something about that special burger popped on one of my social media feeds and I ran to flip open the book. While Dorie’s burger is still on my to-make cooking list (How long is my list by now?), I thought it might be interesting to do my own FRIDAY FISH Salmon Burger this year just to see what I could come up with.

Truth in blogging: If you’re a longtime reader, you know I often keep a stack of newer or even older cookbooks on my reading table. EVERYDAY DORIE is currently among them, as is Susan Herrmann Loomis’ PLAT DU JOUR, Melissa Clark’s DINNER IN FRENCH, Ina Garten’s MODERN COMFORT FOOD, and an oldie but newbie to my house, Gordon Ramsay’s FAMILY FARE. We all need inspiration and “Calgon, take me away” moments. Food bloggers included.

I looked at a bunch of different fish burger recipes to get an idea of ingredients, proportions, and so on. I liked Mark Bittman’s instructions and decided to follow at least some of them. Can that man write a recipe or what? I then rolled my eyes around my own kitchen thinking of what I had that might be good in a salmon burger. I made a list. I checked it twice. I crossed off a bunch of stuff and kept a few things like fresh basil (see LIFE GOES ON below for a breakfast pizza Dave made using said basil), ruby-red Campari tomatoes (pay for them; they taste good all year round), and mozzarella cheese. And so you know what transpired, don’t you? Yep. A “Caprese” Salmon Burger. What else? You can certainly make this without all of the embellishments and it’s so simple to whirr together using thawed frozen salmon fillets. Faster than a run up to your favorite burger joint, too, and maybe healthier. Because — fish. Try this:

FRIDAY FISH: Caprese Salmon Burgers

I made these from scratch using convenient frozen salmon fillets on the advice of Dorie Greenspan, but if you’ve got frozen salmon burgers in your freezer, and you are short of time or patience or gumption, use those and be happy. Don’t overcook these babies!
makes 4 burgers

Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ pounds boneless, skinless salmon fillets, rinsed and patted dry
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise, divided
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup minced red or white onion
  • 1 minced large plump clove garlic
  • 2 tablespoons finely diced red bell pepper
  • ½ cup fresh bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt (I use Morton’s.)
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon EACH: salted butter and olive oil
  • Grated mozzarella cheese (1 cup) or 4 slices, fresh basil leaves, and sliced ripe tomatoes for garnish
  • 4 buttered and grilled burger buns –can toast under broiler instead
  • Mustard sauce (recipe below) and mayonnaise for serving (I like them mixed.)

Instructions

  • Chop the salmon fillets into 1 – 2-inch chunks. Place a quarter of it into a food processor bowl with 1 tablespoon of the mayonnaise and the red wine vinegar, and pulse it into a paste. Add the onion, garlic, bell pepper, and the rest of the salmon. Pulse slowly/carefully, scraping down the sides as needed, until everything is just barely chopped finely and mixed well with the first salmon paste. (If needed you can chop the salmon entirely by hand.)
  • Turn mixture into a large bowl and add the bread crumbs, Parmigiano-Reggiano, dried basil, salt, pepper, and cayenne. (I stirred those ingredients together in a cup first.) Mix gently until only combined; don’t overmix. Divide salmon mixture into four even piles. Shape each into a ball and gently pass the ball back and forth between your hands to firm it up. Pat the balls into even round patties, tapping the edges to make them even. Cover and refrigerate at least 20 minutes, but no more than a few hours.
  • Heat the butter and oil in a large nonstick skillet or sauté pan over medium high heat. Add burgers and cook 4 minutes until lightly browned. Turn carefully, add 1/4 cup grated mozzarella (or 1 slice) to each patty. Lower heat and cook another 2 minutes or so or until an instant read thermometer reads around 140 degrees F. (The temperature will rise as the burgers rest.) Don’t overcook.
  • Serve hot or warm on buttered, grilled buns with mustard sauce, and/or the reserved 2 tablespoons mayonnaise (I like to mix the sauce and the mayo), fresh basil, and sliced tomatoes.
    LEFTOVERS: Store up to 3 days well-wrapped in refrigerator. Eat cold on salad or reheat gently in greased pan. Freeze well-wrapped for up to 3 months; thaw overnight in fridge; reheat gently in greased pan.

Notes

MUSTARD SAUCE: Stir together 2 tablespoons each Dijon-style mustard and; whole grain mustard; 1 teaspoon grated prepared horseradish (or to taste); ½ teaspoon local honey; a drop or two of hot sauce; and a pinch each salt and pepper.
Copyright Alyce Morgan, 2021  
Inspired by Trident Frozen Salmon Burgers (COSTCO), Dorie Greenspan, and Mark Bittman. Many thanks!

WINE: A lighter red, but definitely a red. Try an inexpensive French Beaujolais or an Italian Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.

SIDES: You could go whole hog and make sweet potato fries or a pasta salad and those are great ideas, but just some veggies and dip sound a little better. Slaw? Of course.

TIPS:

*No food processor? Chop/mince the salmon by hand, following the same pattern as in the food processor version. By the time you’re done, none of the pieces should be smaller than 1/4-inch.

*No fresh basil? Add a little extra dried basil to the salmon mixture. Layer lettuce or fresh spinach with the tomato on top of the burger. You need something crispy or at least green here.

No fresh breadcrumbs? Sub 6 tablespoons dried breadcrumbs. If you have panko breadcrumbs, use 1/2 cup — just like fresh breadcrumbs. Place them in a storage bag and beat gently/briefly with a rolling pin or meat mallet to create smaller crumbs.

*When is it done? FDA says 145 degrees F for fish, but I take it off a little earlier (around 140F) so it doesn’t get so dry.

*Print this FDA Safe Minimal Internal Temperatures and tape it inside a cupboard door or near your grilling equipment for easy reference.

*Isn’t this expensive? Definitely not! I used 3/5 of the Kroger (King Sooper) frozen package of PINK SALMON: 32 ounces@ $9.99, to make 4 burgers.

If you liked this, you might also like my TINFOIL SALMON AND BUTTERED TOMATOES WITH THYME ON BROWN RICE.

MORE INFO THAN YOU WANTED:

Dorie Greenspan’s Salmon Burgers

Other EVERYDAY DORIE recipes from Dorie’s website

(Grilled) Salmon Burgers with Citrus Herb Sauce/WEBER

Our 33 Best Burger Recipes/FOODANDWINE

Delicious Ahi Fish Burgers with Chives/ALLRECIPES

Buying Frozen Fish Isn’t What It Used to Be: Here’s What You Need to Know/WAPO/Bonnie S. Benwick

LIFE GOES ON:

In a previous life, and without an elementary ed degree, I taught third grade for a year. God knows how those kids turned out (did they learn their times tables or beginning division?!!), but one thing I had no problem with was finding things for them to read. As a trained and certified school librarian, how I loved Beverly Cleary’s books for my students. At 104, she has earned her borrowing card in the heavenly library above where there are no dog-eared pages, no paperbacks dropped in mud puddles, and every item is returned on time. Rest in peace, Beverly Cleary. GO, RAMONA!!!

Need a good book? This isn’t new (it is a first novel, however), but one of my book clubs just read it and we all raved. Try out 16 PLEASURES by Robert Hellenga. Alyce’s blurb: 29-year old Chicagoan Margot Harrington heads off to Florence to help save the books damaged in the horrific 1966 Arno flood. She finds work, love, friends, a new home, and in the convent where she’s staying, an illicit love-making instruction volume printed, but hidden within a prayer book. What she does with the book and the information makes for an enticing read! Nah, it’s not too graphic, but it’s definitely entertaining and decidedly educational. I’m taking it to Florence next time I go!

Last week sometime, I came across a recipe for “Smoky Breakfast Pizzas” from FOOD AND WINE. I printed the recipe and allowed as I wouldn’t mind them for Sunday brunch. Dave made them Saturday instead of Sunday as our church met together outside –yes, in the street (see below) — on Sunday and we had brunch in a restaurant with old dear friends!!! First time in a restaurant in over a year. These pizzas are 2DIE4. Don’t trust my quickly snapped iPhone pic. Think salty Pecorino Romano, Smoked Mozzarella, tender mushrooms, basil oil, and…of course.. THE EGG. It soon occurred to me that without the egg –but with the basil oil — and cut into wedges, this would make lovely appetizers. With sparkling wine, of course. You can make or buy the dough. Dave made his from my recipe, which is adapted from Tyler Florence, another chef hero of mine.

Last Friday Fish of 2021 Lent. Hope you have some great fish stories from your own kitchen trials this year. If not, save a recipe for the next time you say, “I really need to eat more fish.” I think there are 6 or 7 years of FRIDAY FISH on the the blog now.

Thanks for floating along in my little boat one more time; it’s so good to drift together,

Alyce

Dave in front of Santa Maria Novella last time we visited Florence in 2015. We took a high speed train from Venice and spent the day on foot — the best way to see this beautiful city!

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