Salmon Burgers


For two summers, right out of college, I lived in a little Alaskan town called Cordova. It is nestled right at the edge of the Chugach Mountains, before they, and the Copper River, spill into Prince William Sound. Because you can only get there by boat or by plane, it is the quintessential small Alaskan town surrounded by vast wilderness.  Coming from the east coast, it felt magical to me in that Alice in Wonderland way where the sheer size of things around you make you feel like a spec in the world. Everyone in Cordova was either a fisherman, related to a fisherman, or was close friends with a fisherman and Copper River salmon, prized for their taste in the salmon world, was the main catch. Needless to say, I lived like a queen. People handed out salmon like they grew on trees. Every older man in the village was sure his smoked salmon recipe was the best, which inevitably led to them pleading with you to try some and tell them how much more delicious it was than the next guy’s (I mean, twist my arm, they ALL were amazing!). We cooked salmon for midnight snacks over open-air fires in the never-ending sun. Living like this, surrounded by big nature with bears and glaciers and wolves and ocean all nearby, was an experience I will always remember.

My second summer there I lived in what was called ‘hippie cove’. It was a menagerie of tree houses, yurts, vans, and school buses-turned-houses to the north of town where the social life centered around a wood-fired sauna perfectly situated next to an icy cold stream. I occupied one of those school buses, ‘house’ sitting for a friend who was out of town for the summer. Along the walk from the center of town to the bus was a no-frills cafe whose name I can’t remember, but whose salmon burger I’ll never forget. It got to the point where, if I hadn’t had one for a week or so, I’d start salivating at the thought of it. Before you get your hopes up, this is not the recipe from there, though if anyone knows where I’m talking about and can get the recipe, I’d be SO excited. No, this recipe is the beginnings of the quest for that holy burger. I’ll be tweaking the recipe through time, until I get somewhere close. For now, this is still a really delicious burger that can be made with canned salmon, or fillets (but only wild salmon please! support the fisherman, not the addition of Atlantic species to Pacific stock or antibiotics to our water!). Whenever I make it I think of Cordova and endless summer days in Alaska. 

Salmon Burgers
Yields 4
  1. 14 ounces of salmon, flaked apart
  2. 2 eggs
  3. 1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
  4. 1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  5. 2 Tbs. red onion, finely chopped
  6. 2 Tbs. red bell pepper, finely chopped
  7. 3 Tbs. lemon juice
  8. 1/2 cup panko
  9. a pinch of red pepper flakes
  1. 1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl and form in to patties.
  2. 2. Heat 1 Tbs. of vegetable oil in a sauteĀ“ pan over medium heat and add patties. Cook for about 5 minutes on each side or until browned.
  3. 3. Spritz each patty with lemon juice before serving.
  1. I've always had an aversion to white sauces, so I don't top these with tartar sauce. The burgers don't really need anything more, but sometimes I put a bit of dijon in the mix or on the burger for saucy goodness. But, if you're not white sauce averse, tartar away!

1 Comment

  1. Another winner!! Ease of preparation and on hand ingredients such as canned salmon puts this recipe on top of my list of “what can I make for dinner at the last minute that is delicious”. (I did substitute hot sauce for the red pepper and it must have worked as the accolades were there).

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