The salmon burger isn’t exactly the most original idea these days. Most establishments that bill themselves as seafood or above average dining have some variation of a fish burger. My experiences have been lack luster. More often than not, the fish is dry and chewy, the tartar sauce doesn’t add much flavor or completely overwhelms the fish, the bun is too hard. In short: not worth my $15.
But a little while back I had lunch at Michelle Richard’s Central and spotted their tuna burger on the menu. My mind flashed all the failed executions and disappointed burgers I had had up to that point. I hesitated. “How is the tuna burger?” I asked our server. Her eyes rolled into the back of her head, a tiny smile curled her lips pausing just a second longer than she normally would have before saying, ”It’s excellent.” Sold. Have to trust in involuntary reaction like that. The burger was indeed heaven. Soft, buttery brioche buns encasing a delicate and tender tuna pattie with a rich, tangy sauce to complement. My faith was renewed. This little burger would be a new project. But I’d still need to figure out a good recipe.
Nothing like another established French chef exploring American cuisine to point me in the right direction. Did you know Hubert Keller has a PBS show? I didn’t either until one Saturday morning, after my 2nd cup of coffee, 3rd asprin and 1st bowl of cereal, I stumbled on his little show. Nothing fancy, just standard PBS programing, but it took me a few seconds to process what he mentioned he would be cooking that day. Did he say salmon burgers?! I must still be drunk. No effing way.
So here’s an interpretation of Keller’s recipe as I scribbled quick notes on the back of my bank statement. The burgers were excellent with the crisp apple julienne being a perfect counter point to the soft pattie texture. I used regular hamburger buns but next time I’d splurge for some brioche. I switched out Keller’s little pickles for banana peppers which I very much stand by as being a great substitute.
The only tools you need is a little food pulser to blend up the patties. $10 at Target or chop the salmon finer and mix ingredients with hands.
Ingredients for 2 burgers:
Patties (about 2/3 fresh, 1/3 smoked):
1/2 lbs of fresh salmon (ideally wild) cubed
2-3 strips of smoked salmon
1 Tbsp capers
1 medium shallot
1 handful of jarred banana peppers
2-3 Tbsp tartar sauce (see below)
chopped fresh tarragon and parsley (big pinch each)
big pinch salt
1 cup mayo
big dash Tabasco sauce
1 Tbsp spicy mustard
1 Tbsp ketchup
big dash Worscester sauce
Julienned green apple slices for garnish
watercrest or other small greens
Kitchen Soundtrack: Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks
(Tutorial photos will be soon)
Mix your tartar sauce adjusting for seasonings. Shouldn’t have to add salt, but if you think it needs it go nuts.
Prep your salmon, roughly chop your shallots. Working in batches if you have to, pulse the pattie ingredients together until well mixed (about 3-4 big pulses). Remove and set aside.
The pattie making part can be a little tricky. To keep the meat from sticking to your hands, rinse them in cool water. Place the pattie mix on a plastic cutting board and gingerly form the sides of the pattie like you’re forming a vertical cylinder.
Then slap the pattie down firmly to give it the pattie shape. You’re trying to do this quickly so it won’t stick, but you want to be sure the pattie is firmly formed about the size of the bun. Please in fridge for at least 30 minutes to set.
Once patties are ready, toast your buns and place a pan on medium heat with a big splash of olive oil. Gently place patties in the oil and cook for about 2 minutes on each side until a nice browned crust has formed and just cooked through.
Julienne 1/2 an apple for garnish.
A little tartar sauce on the bottom of the bun, slice tomato and greens, place burger on top. Then top with apple slices and another coating of the sauce. Delicate, rich, smokey and devoured before you know it.