The salmon croquette or patty that shows up in Southern meat-and-three’s is typically fried in lots of oil and served with remoulade or another rich sauce. Atlanta chef Virginia Willis employs some clever tricks to get around these fats in her new book, “Lighten Up Y’all – Classic Southern Recipes Made Healthy and Wholesome” (Ten Speed Press). Her flavorful, herb-flecked version starts with a fresh salmon fillet that’s chopped and then bound with egg and whole-wheat breadcrumbs. The onion and celery is zapped in the microwave long enough to soften and lightly brown without sautéing. Once formed, the patties bake quickly in an extra-hot oven on a nonstick surface (she uses a Silpat), so that the exterior is lightly crispy and the interior stays moist with no additional fat. They’d be delicious with just a squeeze of lemon, but the tangy accompanying sauce is worth the extra effort. One patty is a mere 220 calories; a tablespoon of the sauce is 37 calories. Should you have any leftover, they reheat beautifully the next day in the microwave.
Ingredients for lemon-caper sauce
1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon capers, drained and finely chopped
1/2 celery stalk, very finely chopped
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Ingredients for salmon
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/2 celery stalk, finely chopped
10 ounces boneless, skinless salmon fillet, pin bones removed, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 cup fresh whole wheat bread crumbs, or whole wheat panko (Japanese) bread crumbs
1 large egg
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Pinch cayenne pepper
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
To make the sauce, zest the lemon with a handheld grater and reserve the zest for the salmon. Using a small, sharp knife, slice off the top and bottom of the lemon. To section the lemon, set the fruit upright on the cutting board. Working from top to bottom, slice off the peel, white pith, and outer membranes from the lemon to expose the segments. Carefully cut each segment away from its membranes, cut the segments into small pieces, and put in a bowl along with any juice. Squeeze any remaining juice from the membranes, then discard, along with the seeds. Add the onion, mustard, capers, and celery. Whisk until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.
To make the salmon, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a silicone mat. Place the onion and celery in a microwave-safe bowl and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a large bowl, combine the salmon, breadcrumbs, egg, onion mixture, garlic, parsley, mustard, reserved lemon zest, and cayenne pepper. Season with salt and pepper. (Simply microwave a teaspoon or so until the salmon is cooked so you can taste and adjust seasoning.) Using a large ice cream scoop or a half-cup measure, shape the salmon mixture with your hands into 4 cakes and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake 5 minutes, then, using an offset spatula or batter turner, flip and bake an additional 5 minutes. Serve immediately with the sauce.
Makes 4 patties, about 1/2 cup sauce
Lightly adapted from “Lighten Up, Y’all”