Monday, April 7, 2014

Early Spring Supper

We have to plan a menu that includes an appetizer and main dish for the practical final of my culinary class. We were given no criteria - just whatever I would want to serve if I had a restaurant - so the options were endless. One of my favorite hobbies is putting together menus for dinner parties so that's how I approached this task. I made a list of about seven themed menus and narrowed it down to the final two. In the end, I picked this Pacific Northwest-themed menu inspired by the meal I ate at Sweet Basil's in Cannon Beach, Oregon last summer

I did a test run for friends this weekend. I timed myself and asked for feedback on the taste and presentation. It was a hit all around. 

This is the first time that I've tried this salmon cake recipe. Chris Kimball is always a trusted source, and he didn't disappoint. I like the bigger chunks of salmon in the cakes and the minimal filler ingredients. You can really taste and appreciate the flavor of the salmon. I plated this dish similar to Sweet Basil's. When I was in Seattle, the crab cakes I ordered almost always came with sauce drizzled over the cakes. I don't like this at all because 1) I usually like way less sauce than the average person and 2) it tends to make the cakes soggy. I like to control how much sauce is in my bite so I like putting it on the side. I served the extra sauces in bowls for people to add more if they wanted it.

Although the exam will not include a dessert component, I felt like it just wouldn't be complete without one so I made the dark chocolate tart that we had at Thanksgiving. I've made this tart a handful of times, and it always knocks my socks off. It is simple to pull together, but it is so rich and decadent. 

Early Spring Supper Chez MeghAndrew

Creamy Beet Dip served with Endive and Fennel

Pacific Salmon Cakes served with Spicy and Lemon Herb Mayos and Mixed Greens with Lemon-Dill Vinaigrette

Dark Chocolate Tart with Gingersnap Crust

Pacific Salmon Cakes 
From Cook's Illustrated, the 2011 version of the recipe, found here

3 tablespoons plus 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 Lemon; half for juice and half for lemon wedges
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 small shallot, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
pinch cayenne pepper
1-1/4 pound skinless Pacific salmon fillet
(If purchasing a skin-on fillet, buy 1-1/3 pounds which will yield what you need after being skinned)
1/2 cup vegetable oil

In a large mixing bowl, add 3 tablespoons panko, parsley, mayonnaise, juice of half the lemon, scallion, shallot, Dijon mustard, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and pinch of cayenne. Stir everything until combined.

Cut salmon fillet into 1″ pieces, and divide into 3 even batches. Pulse each batch in a food processor for just 2-3 pulses. The salmon should be relatively uniformly chopped into 1/4-inch pieces. It is fine if some pieces are bigger than 1/4-inch. It is important to avoid over-processing into a paste. Add each batch to the mixing bowl containing panko/mayo, and repeat with remaining batches. Carefully mix the salmon and panko/mayo mixture until evenly combined.

Carefully form mixture into eight cakes (about 1/3 cup each) and place on a baking sheet. The cakes should be approximately 3" by 1" thick patties.

Put 3/4 cup panko in a pie plate. Gently dip each salmon cake into the panko so that it is lightly coated and return to the baking sheet.

Add 1/2 cup vegetable oil to a 12″ skillet, and pre-heat over medium-high burner for 4 minutes until the oil begins to shimmer. Fry cakes without moving them for 2 minutes, and flip when golden brown. Flip and fry second side for another 2 to 3 minutes until golden brown. Remove to paper-towel lined plate and allow to drain for 1 minute.

Serve with Spicy and Lemon Herb Mayos and mixed green salad. I also made some roasted asparagus, not pictured. Recipes for the mayos are below.

For the salad, I made a lemon vinaigrette. I never measure my vinaigrettes, and I never make more than enough for the salad of the night. I simply pour my ingredients into the bottom of the salad bowl, mix vigorously, taste and adjust seasoning and then add the greens and toss. Easy peasy! For this vinaigrette, I used olive oil, fresh lemon juice, dijon mustard, honey, minced fresh dill, mined shallot, and a pinch of salt and pepper. I think the delicateness of the mixed greens go really well with the salmon.

Spicy Mayo
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1-1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1-1/2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 30 minutes.

Lemon Herb Mayo
From Cook's Illustrated, found here

1/2 cup mayonnaise, preferably homemade 
2-1/2 tablespoons lemon juice from 1 lemon 
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1 large scallion, white and green parts minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 30 minutes.


  1. That looks so BEAUTIFUL!! And delicious!

  2. wow! It looks fantastic! And my bet your friends are very appreciative of your culinary class and getting to be your guinea pigs :)


Hey, thank you!

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