The de-cluttering campaign has moved to the pantry. There are lots of opportunities there: several boxes of salt, two or three tins of sardines, and five – or is it six? – different varieties of vinegar. One item caught my eye, a can of salmon. Fortunately, canned salmon is one of those virtually indestructible items like Spam and Twinkies. It can sit on a shelf for years, just waiting for some culinary emergency. This can had sat on the shelf for longer than I wish to recount, so it seemed like the time had come to use it.

When I was growing up, my mother often used canned salmon. I think that may have reflected her growing up in a Dakota sod-buster family on the flat and isolated prairie. She used to tell of waiting for shipments of otherwise unavailable foods to arrive , preserved in one way or another, on the trains from Minneapolis. Salmon loaf was one of my mother’s  specialties,, and salmon salad sometimes showed up with the salmon straight out of the can. You were able to eat it that way because the canning process essentially cooked the salmon, bones and all. I was never a fan of the bones that you could find. The little vertebrae had a fascinating shape, and they crunched easily between your teeth. But when I found out what they were, those little bones finished off my enthusiasm for canned salmon. These days, we often have salmon, but it is grilled or roasted, and always a fresh steak or a beautiful filet. Canned salmon seemed like a distant memory but a good challenge. Salmon cakes were an obvious choice.

I also had to deal with mushrooms. The other day, Susan wanted to make her favorite Hungarian mushroom soup from the Moosewood cookbook. The recipe called for 2 pounds of fresh mushrooms. When I bought some at the grocery store, I carefully weighed out 2 pounds. It seemed like a lot. Clearly the scale at the store was not working because we wound up with enough mushrooms to make several batches of soup.  It occurred to me that mushroom sauce for the salmon would be a good way to use up at least some of the mushrooms. The sauce I made was thicker than you might like, but you can always thin it out with stock.


Salmon Cakes


  • 1 large, thick slice good-quality sourdough bread
  • ½ cup cream
  • 1 14 ounce  can salmon, drained
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon dried dill weed
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • vegetable oil


  1. Tear the bread into chunks and place in the beaker of a food processor. Pulse several times to form coarse crumbs.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the bread crumbs and cream. Stir in the salmon with a fork, breaking up the fish into shreds about the size of the bread crumbs. (This should collapse any intact vertebrae)
  3. Stir in the mustard, dill weed, lemon, seasoning, salt and pepper until thoroughly combined. Shape into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  4. When you are ready to make your salmon cakes, remove the salmon mixture from the refrigerator and divide into four equal balls. Between two pieces of waxed paper, form each ball into a patty about ½ inch thick.
  5. Heat just enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom of a large skillet. Over medium-high heat when the oil is shimmering, add the salmon cakes. Sauté until crisp and lightly browned on one side, about 5 minutes. Turn once and brown the other side. Serve while still warm.

Mushroom Sauce


  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ pound Cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups vegetable stock + more if needed
  • salt and pepper


  1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the mushrooms and sauté  until the mushrooms are cooked through and lightly browned
  2. Stir in the flour so that the mushrooms are completely coated. Cook another minute or two.
  3. Add the vegetable stock, stirring continuously until it is completely incorporated and the mixture has thickened. Add more stock as needed for your desired consistency. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
  4. Serve over warm salmon cakes.


Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes


  1. Mu husband’s mother always made something her kids called Salmon Wiggle from canned salmon. They hated it! Think tuna noodle casserole made with canned cream of soup with it. The crab cakes are a much better idea!

  2. When I was living at home, my mother asked me if I would make up salmon cakes while she was a work and she would fry them when she got home for our family dinner. When I saw the bones and skin I nearly freaked. I’ve never had canned salmon in my pantry after that experience. Knowing the good cook you are, I’m sure your salmon was very good.

    • I actually laughed out loud when I read your story. I understand your reaction. I don’t know where that can of salmon came from, but it has stared back at me from the pantry shelf for a long time. I figured down-sizing was as good an excuse as any to use it or throw it out. It actually turned out pretty good. If you look up at the ceiling while you are mashing the salmon, you will do just fine.

  3. Beth

    I actually almost panicked the first time I bought and opened a can of salmon and found the skin and bones! Pre-internet days and I believe I put it in the fridge and eventually threw it out! Nowadays, I buy the boneless, skinless canned salmon and use it at least weekly: in homemade pasta sauces such as parma rosa, salmon cakes, and even creamed salmon on toast ( during Lent, when I am too tired to cook, or the budget is tight and I tell my kids I am nostalgic for my childhood days and want to share culinary history with them!).
    Thanks for the above recipe. Looking for a way to use up too many cremini mushrooms to go with my salmon burgers tonight!

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