From my memoirs…
Mrs. Mary made salmon croquettes for lunch for us many times during my childhood. Often during the summer when we were out of school and in her hair, she’d send us to the garden to pick vegetables and then we’d “help” her make lunch.
Her croquettes were more so of a crispy salmon patty, not greasy, and wonderfully delicious. Many times we would have sliced cucumbers and Vidalia’s in vinegar with them or some other fresh veggie medley…okra and tomatoes, skillet corn, or browned squash.
I’ve often tried to recreate hers, and, as with her biscuits, I just don’t hit the mark. I have discovered, though, a modern twist on this classic that is quite divine. My Mimi, a fantastic cook herself, had a hankering for salmon croquettes and I was glad to oblige – wanting to try a twist on croquettes, we began thinking…a dangerous kitchen pastime!
Panko makes everything better. Mimi used to cook with these breadcrumbs in Japan when she and Granddaddy were stationed there in the 50’s. Now, they’re readily available in most grocery stores…even flavored. I had some Italian flavor Panko on hand, so into the mix it went and what a result!
From the French word croquer (which means “crunch” in French whereas the dish croque-monsieur comes from as well.) Croquettes are defined as a small cake comprised of a minced meat, bread crumbs, herbs and seasoning. And so they are!
The fine texture and a super crunch factor make these fine breadcrumbs a welcome addition to a dish and the palette alike. Yet, what the Panko did for this batch of croquettes to make them exceptional was that they helped make the patties lighter and not greasy at all. I mixed the breadcrumbs in with the salmon and other ingredients and then “breaded” or coated the patties in the Panko for added crunch.
Of course, when you fry or sauté anything in oil, you’re going to have the “greasy” factor to contend with, but I think the Panko solved that contention and gave us the perfect texture and taste for our croquettes. Since salmon croquettes are a Southern staple, we often eat them with grits and Mimi’s remoulade, appropriately enough. A simple salad rounded off the meal and gave us our green element for the meal.
Whether you’re an old faithful when it comes to salmon croquettes or a new to the dish, try these, and I bet you’ll be just thrilled. I added a bit of green onion from the garden for garnish, but I guarantee it would be great in the patties too. Wedges of lemon add a punch of citrus flavor when squeezed over the dish and dress up the dish to. From this Farmer’s pantry, garden, and kitchen, enjoy!
· 2 Cans of Salmon, no bones, just meat.
· Half a cup of mayonnaise…good mayonnaise (Hellman’s)
· ¾ teaspoon of onion powder…you can use green onion in place if you wish or in addition.
· Salt and pepper to taste…fresh cracked.
· 1 cup of Panko…I used the Italian but the plain work quite well…and another cup for the breading
· 1 large egg
· About ¾ cup of canola oil for frying
Mix all your ingredients together, reserving a cup of the Panko for the coating. You just might have to get your hands in it to thoroughly combine it all and form the patties.
Shape the patties into your desired size…I make a larger croquette whereas four fit in the iron skillet…about an inch thick and 3-4 inches in diameter. Shape them and pack them well so they don’t fall apart in the pan. Roll, coat, and bread the croquettes in the remaining Panko - be sure to coat all sides.
Fry your salmon croquettes in a cast iron or heavy skillet. Heat half the oil on medium high heat until the oil begins to shimmer. Use half of the oil for the first batch and the remaining oil for the second batch if need be. If the breading starts to “cloud” or clump together in the oil, just remove the excess crumbs. Fry on each side for about 4 minutes, 8 minutes total for each batch or until crisp and golden brown. Allow them to drain on a paper towel covered plate. Serve with grits, on a bed of greens, or both!