The nightmare is always the same. I am hungry, I go downstairs to the refrigerator, open the door, and there it all is. The fridge is filled with stacks of one overpowering awful, disgraceful dish. Salmon cakes. The only thing you can make with leftover salmon.
I haven’t had a salmon cake in decades, and that’s on purpose. To me, they always were as dry as the Gobi. The flavor was salmon, and salmon, and salmon. One overpowering note. And old salmon at that.
So, if have leftover salmon, what do with it? Well, the opposite of those salmon cakes. You want to avoid that dryness and you need a symphony of flavors: salmon in the lead with overtones to create a full complement for your taste buds.
Suzen and I experimented this weekend on some left over smoked salmon. We created the concoction for a dip, but it has multiple uses. You can stuff tomatoes with it, place a large dab on a bed of lettuce for a salad, or spread it on toast for a great sandwich.
The amounts here can be easily scaled up to produce more. And, you can increase the flavor notes if you wish by including:
- Chopped onion
- Herbs beyond chives
- Diced pickles
- Lime instead of lemon
We did use smoked salmon here, salmon we had just smoked ourselves so it was fresh and moist, not dry and leathery. If you have leftover salmon, but it is baked or barbequed and not smoked, you can introduce that smoky flavor by adding a dash — just a dash— of the adobe sauce from a can of chipotles. Really go easy here. You can add but you cannot subtract!
And, for distinction, there is dill here. And no salt and pepper. The combination is truly different.
Yield: dip for 5-6 folks, salad for two
- 6 ounces cooked salmon
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- ¼ sour cream
- Zest of one lemon
- Juice of one lemon
- 3 tablespoons diced chives
- 1 tablespoon capers
Using your hands, pull the salmon into small pieces, discarding any skin or tough parts. Place in a bowl. Add the mayonnaise and sour cream. Stir with a wooden spoon to mix well. Add the lemon zest and juice plus the capers. Stir to combine.
Adjust to get the texture you desire by adding more mayo or sour cream. With smoked salmon and the capers, salt and pepper are really not needed here. You are looking for a smooth, subtle flavor with a texture that is easily spreadable.
Source: Suzen and Brian O’Rourke
The easy way to get mayonnaise is to open the jar. The better way is to make it yourself.
Why bother? Taste, quality, texture, and just that wonderful satisfaction that you’ve done everything, yes everything, yourself.
Jar mayo can be good, but the store-bought versions come with limitations. The flavor is often muted, just subtlety descending into blandness. And that texture may be wonderfully uniform, but it is not really creamy. It’s too viscous, and if you look at the list of ingredients on the side of your jar you’ll begin to understand why.
Homemade mayo can be prepared with a whisk or a blender. Go with the whisk. There is a great blender recipe in The Joy of Cooking — I know because I tested and refined it. But many other blender recipes fail — I know because Brian and I just had a kitchen misfortune with one we were faithfully following as part of a recipe test.
No, save the electricity and pick up your whisk. This recipe, from Sauces by Michel Roux, is quite simple and totally delicious. And you control the flavor. You can add more vinegar or lemon juice or mustard to achieve a deeper flavor. If you try to do that with store-bought mayo, all you get is a modified emulsion with your additions suspended in that white mayo mass. The time to integrate flavor is at the time of creation.
This recipe takes you less than 10 minutes. That’s less time than it takes to get in the car, drive to Wal-Mart and stock up with stuff from China.
In terms of variation, this recipe originally called for peanut oil, but I like the flavors of my favorite olive oil. Different oil, olive and otherwise, will give you great variety here. Similarly, you can experiment beyond simple white vinegar to generate a variety of distinctive notes.
And, of course, there are always the variations to convert even this delicious simple mayonnaise into other wonders:
- Curry Mayonnaise: dissolve 1 tablespoon of curry powder in the vinegar or lemon juice
- Remoulade Sauce: mince 2 cornichons plus 1 tablespoon capers and 1 anchovy fillet and fold into the mayonnaise with 1 teaspoon of Dijon and 3 tablespoons of chopped herbs [parsley, chervil, and tarragon]
Yield: 1 ¼ cups
- 2 egg yolks, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon strong Dijon mustard
- 1 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar or lemon juice.
Stand a mixing bowl on a dish towel on the counter. Put the egg yolks, mustard and little salt and pepper into the bowl and mix with a balloon whisk.
Slowly add the oil in a very thin stream to begin with, whisking continuously. [You may want two people here: one to hold the bowl and whisk and the other to maintain a very steady pour of oil].
As the mayonnaise begins to thicken, add the oil in a steady stream, still whisking all the time.
When the oil is completely incorporated, whisk more rapidly for 30 seconds until he mayonnaise is thick and glossy. Add the vinegar or lemon juice, taste, and adjust the seasoning as necessary.
Source: Sauces, Revised and Updated Edition by Michel Roux