I shudder when I think about my early days of “professional” cooking. Everyone has to start somewhere. But without having gone to cooking school or gotten any real world restaurant experience, I was particularly clueless and ill equipped for my first few private chef gigs.
Shortly after I quit my day job to blog and work on my cookbook full-time, one of my family friends in a gesture of good will hired me to cook for a dinner party. Not only did I have no idea what to charge him, I wasn’t even an experienced enough host to know the right kind of thing to serve a group of adults that was creative, easy to execute and didn’t feel like I was trying too hard. I was 23, so it’s arguable whether I could have even been considered an adult myself.
I ended up making these ginger salmon burgers, which had been a good one-off dinner experiment I tried on my parents. Though they were always polite and encouraging about whatever I was trying out on a given evening, you could tell that on this occasion, they actually didn’t have to fake it. And that was a good enough endorsement for me.
Salmon burgers are an easy option for a weeknight dinner for 3, but searing off 10 patties before dinner service proved to be slightly more pressure than my limited skill set could handle. Especially since I’d already burnt my arm on the oven and was running an hour behind schedule and desperately trying not to cry. Also, no matter how big and beautiful the kitchen, in a New York City salmon cooked stove-top has the tendency to leave everyone who enters the apartment smelling just a little bit fishy.
Lou Reed was one of the dinner guests, which only intensified my panic attack as funky smoke wafted out from the open kitchen into the dining area. Luckily, the food all tasted pretty good and the guests were equally skilled in positive encouragement as my parents, even if the presentation deserved little praise. And Lou ate two salmon burgers, so I counted the whole experience as a win.Knowing what I know now, salmon burgers would probably be the last thing I propose for a catered dinner party. But they’re still delicious. And for just the right audience, a totally viable weeknight meal.
My mom came over for lunch a few weeks ago and knowing my success rate on ground fish patties, I decided to try out a new version of these salmon burgers with dill and Dijon. They’re a perfect transitional recipe as we start moving away from heavy soups and stews in favor of lighter fare. That is, so long as it doesn’t snow this week.
Dill Salmon Burgers
- Either finely mince the salmon by hand or run it through a food processor until coarsely ground. Ideally, you'd pulverize half and chop half by hand so that there are still some chunks of fish, but feel free to do whatever is easiest for you.
- Combine the salmon in a medium mixing bowl with the dill, lemon juice and zest, mayonnaise, mustard, capers, garlic, and salt. Divide the mixture into 4 balls and shape them into thick patties. Arrange the patties on a plate and chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes or up to 2 hours. This will help the patties stay together without the help of breadcrumbs.
- Set a large cast iron or non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat the pan with a thin layer of oil. Cook the burgers for 3 minutes per side, or until nicely browned and firm, being careful when you flip them on the first side that they don't fall apart.
- Serve the burgers immediately with toasted buns or on a bed of arugula with lemon wedges on the side.
You can skip the chilling, but be careful when flipping the burgers as they will fall apart more easily.