Monday, December 15, 2008

"There's Nothing in the House" Salmon Cakes with Creamy Corn Relish and Tarragon Drizzle

This Salmon Cakes with Creamy Corn Relish video recipe reminded me that some of the best, and most satisfying cooking I do seems to happen when there's nothing to work with. Of course, I don’t literally mean nothing, that would require the ability to conjure things up, and my training in the dark arts is relatively minimal. I mean no obvious fresh ingredients to use.

I recently found myself in this predicament when a driving rain made a trip to the store seem like a poor choice when compared to a lo
ok-around the pantry and freezer. What I found led to one of the more delicious lunches I've had this month. These salmon cakes are so easy, so cheap, and since canned salmon is always wild salmon, very healthy.

You'll also see me use a couple spoons of crème fraiche, which I showed you how to make in a recent video recipe. You can sub milk or cream, but why? Make some crème fraiche.

Anyway, next time you're at the store make sure you pick up a bag of frozen corn and a few cans of salmon. You never know when you're going to have to cook with "nothing." Enjoy!

Salmon cakes ingredients:
2 (7.5 ounce) cans red salmon
2 tbsp capers. chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp tarragon mustard (or Dijon and some chopped fresh tarragon)
1/2 lemon, juices
1 egg
1/3 cup plain breadcrumbs
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
olive oil

For the corn:
8 oz frozen corn
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (or fresh hot pepper diced)
3 tbsps crème fraiche, or milk, cream, sour cream
salt to taste

For the sauce:
1/2 teaspoon tarragon mustard
2 tbsp crème fraiche or sour cream
1 tsp lemon juice
salt to taste

* Please help support free video recipes, and visit my new sponsor, MOZO Shoes. Find out why chefs (like me) are buzzing about their great shoes!


Anonymous said...

Chef, this begs the question-
Do you:
A. Make stuff up, like it, then a couple of days later replicate the recipe for videoing.

B. Film everything you cook, all the time. And then post the recipes that work out.

or C. Film everything you cook, and just say that everything is incredible. :) Because this looks silly-good for something just made up!

Incidentally, do you still get a kick-back from people buying things (anything!) on Amazon via

I've recently purchased a bunch of stuff for the holidays on Amazon, but did it through your site assuming you benefit. Not sure. If you do then now is a great time to remind people of that?
If that's not the case anymore, though, then how am I going to explain the $500 in Humperdink records that I just bought?

Scott - Boston

Chef John said...

it's B - "Film everything you cook, all the time. And then post the recipes that work out."

Rarely do I know what I'm making until it's done, especially when I'm scrounging around for ingredients.

Yes, I do get a small but appreciated fee for Amazon purchases, and I should remind everyone about that! Good call.

Anonymous said...

loved this recipe! i'm a college student who always finds herself down to meager rations during exam time... i have made salmon cakes before when completely out of all other groceries, but i will definitely have to try this recipe!

.. and i appreciated the comment on 43 capers! =)

cheers, and thanks for another great recipe!

Anonymous said...

I make salmon cakes all the time, but instead of an egg I add a dollop of homemade mayo. I love the tarragon mustard drizzle idea, though. Looks delicious, as always!


Michael said...


First, I need to say this is my 1st comment on your site. I've made many of your recipes now and they are all family favorites now! :)

Second, I happen to be allergic to salmon. Can you recommend an alternative fish? Would tuna work?


Chef John said...

I've never tried tuna, but could work. Crab is the obvious choice, but you can do this with raw chopped white fish like cod or bass.

Diane said...

I love this recipe. Simple, and I always have canned salmon in my house. (sandwiches!) Thanks for this yummy looking alternative..

Anonymous said...

Dear Chef,

When you give quantities of salt in your recipes, are you working with kosher salt or table salt? I know I should just use my own taste buds to figure out how much to use, but I thought I'd ask before giving this recipe a try.

By the way, I got the DVD in the mail a few days ago. Thank you so much!

Chef John said...

I used Kosher salt in all the recipe videos. Thanks!

Kim said...

My husband orders salmon cakes when we go out but I never thought about making them at home. He is going to be so happy at dinner tonight, thank you!!! I am headed to Trader Joe's shortly for needed items. Let's see if this "tarragon mustard" you speak of truly exist;).

Chef John said...

I'm not sure if TJ has tarragon mustard, I get it at Whole Foods, but like I said, fresh tarragon works just as good, if not better. Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

Long time watcher first time commenter...

Chef John, I've seen all your videos and this one actually breaks new ground. Your knowing wit and tongue-in-cheekness is unprecedented - while the more daring parts of your routine (the tarragon bit had me laughing out loud) were highly appreciated as well.

Definitely keep it up!

Anonymous said...

Man this looks yummy

Anonymous said...

I would have made this recipe tonight but I only had 39 capers. I guess I'll have to go to the store after all.

Chef John said...

I hate when that happens!

Anonymous said...

I love cooking when there's "nothing in the house"! Some of my favorite meals have happened that way. Thanks for this video!

Anonymous said...

this looks delish and so easy to make. great for a poor college student! thanks so much for the site and the work you put into making the videos

Clararar said...

I bought some tarragon mustard today at our local store! It's a small corner variety but also happens to be next to a french deli and stocked with gourmet items, so there it was, jars and jars of it! Sure enough, I'd walked past it tons of times before without even noticing... anyway, am really looking forward to trying these out!

Anonymous said...

The Long's & Walgreen's in my town often have 14oz canned salmon on sale for $2 (sometimes $1.50), so I stock up & make "salmon cups". I use a basic recipe for salmon loaf & bake it in muffin cups, which I freeze & reheat as needed, serving with a sauce made from drained yogurt, capers, lemon juice, & cracked pepper.

Your recipe sounds great & I'll definitely try it next time.


Joe Schmoe said...

Disclaimer: these salmon cakes are the most complicated recipe I ever tried. I have very little cooking experience.

1) Question: was I supposed to drain salmon cans of liquid? I didn't b/c recipe didn't ask for it but I think I should've - cakes seemed to have too much moisture in them

2) I think I should've separated mix in 6 cakes - they would be smaller and cooked through better. Does it make sense? When I did 4 they seem to be mostly "raw" in the middle.

3) For my taste next time I will omit lemon juice. I think mustard and capers add enough acidity. Also, maybe I will add a bit more salt than specified

Chef John said...

i didn't drain because these cans didn't have any liquid. A good brand shouldn't have a lot of juice. if so, then drain.

The salmon is already cooked, so you just need to heat through. sounds like you just needed to cook longer. 4 or 6 whatever you like.

Seasoning up to you! Thanks!

Rachel said...

Hi Chef John! I've been looking around your blog for awhile now and very much enjoying it, but tonight was the first night I actually tried a recipe. I was really excited to try these salmon cakes, but when I made them they ended up falling apart. I couldn't get them to keep their cake shape even before they were in the pan, so I added a little more lemon juice hoping that the extra moisture would help. But they still fell apart slightly in the pan.

Were they just too dry? I thought that maybe the salmon was flaked apart too much after mixing in all the other ingredients. Any ideas what happened?


Chef John said...

not sure! did you let them sit as directed? its the egg and breadcrumbs that hold everything together. More lemon juice wouldn't help. Actually the more flaked the salmon usually the better it holds. I'm really not sure.

Radian1978 said...

Made these tonight. Reallly, really good. The creme fraiche in the corn and sauce just goes SO well with the salmon, and the capers of course. Made a double batch, finishing them on our griddle so I could cook all 8. The cakes stayed together perfectly.

dave said...

I have made these several times. They are fantastic, really really good. My local grocery store, Vons/Safeway did not carry tarragon mustard, so used Dijon and fresh tarragon, and it worked fine. I did just find tarragon mustard at another grocery store, Major Market, which is a little higher end store. I want to try recipe for creme fraiche as well.

Patrick Graham said...


Easy and so good!

I started with left over salmon I made the other night. Since I grill my fish and usually pretty rare, crumbling it and following the directions was a snap.

The next night, with the taste of tarragon mustard still in my memory, I tried it with canned salmon.

Good, for sure but nothing like fresh salmon.

So, last night with seven children, four adults and me, I decided to do it for a main course.

three pounds of Atlantic Wild Salmon, tripled the whole recipe. Prepared the salmon with course rock salt and fresh pepper, grilled it for three min each side. Brought it in and pulled the skin off the back (two seconds), let it sit in a large bowl and added all the other ingredients.

The sitting for a half hour is a must. Otherwise it's just to mushy to form cakes.

Also, with fresh fish, you need another 1/3 bread crumbs to soak up the moisture.

I couldn't find the tarragon mustard even after I want to the grocery store with the really nice cars in the parking lot.

So, I bought a box of fresh tarragon, chopped fine and added it to the mustard and cream. Wonderful but I could have easily doubled the amount of tarragon.

Also, after making this a few times, you need to do the corn as you begin to heat the cakes otherwise, it just sits there waiting to be reheated and becomes a little dry.

Plate it all and wait for the compliments.

KitKat said...

I have made this recipe many times with canned tuna (solid tuna, packed in water not the other yucky stuff) as well as fresh salmon. The tuna recipe requires a little more liquid, because the tinned version is rather dry. Other than that, this is a fantastic recipe! Any users should feel encouraged to use any type of fish they have in the house as long as it is a good match for the corn relish.


KitKat said...

Dried tarragon works well - just add 1/2 tsp to 1 Tblsp of Dijon and you'll have what you need. Let it sit for awhile.

I've made these with canned tuna as well (add more liquid as this fish is somewhat dry) and fresh salmon too. Fresh beats all, but this is an awesome recipe!

Anonymous said...

Chef John I kind of love you. Well, it's that "I LOVE this guy" kind of love and I try and share it with all my friends over on this side of the planet. References to the number of capers and finding the right kind of shop to buy tarragon mustard, are signature "Chef Johnisms" and (along with really good recipes) the cheeky, smart aleck remarks make this my absolute favourite recipe site.

On, on Chef John!

Teresa in Hong Kong

Carabu said...

I have a Christmas party tomorrow night and I am thinking about making these bite size. Do you think it is better to pan fry them or could I bake them in small muffin cups (and serve the relish on the side)?

Chef John said...

No, fried is way better!

1Bigg_ER said...

Would it be necessary to cook fresh salmon first if I was to use it instead on canned?
I have some frozen fillets from Sam's club that I've had in my freezer for like 3 months.

Chef John said...

yes, cook first for this recipe.

JSpangs said...

Chef John you are my hero. You helped me look like a superstar on Thanksgiving with your KISS turkey and I just made these Salmon cakes last night. I started eating fish about 10 years ago but the idea of canned fish has always put me off due to that "fishy" smell I recall from canned tuna prevalent in the dorms in my college days. You have shown me what a wonderful, fast and easy dinner it makes for!

I love crab cakes and fresh salmon so I gave this a try and it was AMAZING. Thanks so much for the great recipes and inspiring more confidence in the kitchen. I'll be trying the Ryan's Chicken Marsala next and cant wait. You're amazing & thanks again!

Chef John said...

Thank you for the kind words!

Eric said...

Chef John! Would panko work instead of regular breadcrumbs?

Unknown said...

Just made these for dinner tonight. Delicious! Thank you Chef John! I haven't met a recipe of yours I didn't like.