My maternal grandmother, the only real cook in our family, used to make salmon croquettes for me when I was a little girl, and I thought they were the best thing ever. She started with canned salmon, and mashed in some frozen mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, corn), plus bread crumbs to hold everything together. And an egg. If there were any spices besides salt and pepper, I'd be surprised. She pan-fried the croquettes in oil, the same way she made potato pancakes for Chanukah. When I had a craving recently for Grandma's salmon croquettes, I grabbed instead a can of tuna from the pantry, and found that I had most all of the ingredients for these patties in my pantry, too. My adult palate likes a little bit of heat, in the form of red pepper flakes, and the extra crunch of panko bread crumbs (though you could certainly use regular bread crumbs, or even gluten-free crumbs). I've swapped fresh vegetables for the frozen peas and carrots, but in spirit, these are the croquettes my grandmother used to cook for me. Make them small, for appetizers, or larger patties, for a lunch or light supper main dish.
Pan-fried tuna croquettes
From the pantry, you'll need: Dijon mustard, eggs, lemon, panko bread crumbs, olive oil, kosher salt, fresh black pepper.
Adapted from this recipe by Alton Brown, and my grandmother's recipe for salmon croquettes. Makes 8 croquettes; serves 4 as an appetizer, or on top of a salad.
10 oz (2 5-oz cans) solid white albacore tuna in water, drained (all water squeezed out)
2 large eggs
1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
2 scallions, roughly chopped
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs, divided
Pinch of red pepper flakes (mild), optional
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp fresh black pepper
Olive oil, for pan-frying
Place the drained tuna in a dish towel, and squeeze out any remaining water. Set aside.
In the work bowl of a food processor, add the eggs and process for 2-3 seconds to "beat" the eggs.
To the food processor, add celery, bell pepper, scallions, mustard, lemon juice, 1/4 cup of panko, red pepper flakes (optional), salt and pepper. Add the drained tuna. Pulse a few times until the vegetables are chopped, and the mixture begins to come together.
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Use an ice cream scoop to portion out eight balls of tuna mixture. Then, gently shape each ball into a patty. The mixture will be very "loose".
Refrigerate the sheet pan for at least 15 minutes, up to 30 minutes. This will help firm up the mixture, though it will still be very delicate.
Place the remaining 1/2 cup of panko crumbs into a pie plate.
Film a large (12-inch) nonstick frying pan with olive oil (filming means to cover the entire base of the frying pan), and heat over medium heat until the oil is shimmering.
One at a time, coat the croquettes in the panko, and place them carefully into the frying pan. Now, do not move them at all for 3-4 minutes, until the bottoms are browned. Using a spatula, gently flip the croquettes, and cook them for another 3 minutes, until the second side is browned.
Remove the croquettes from the pan, and set them on a wire rack above a plate covered with paper towels. Allow the croquettes to cool to room temperature, and serve with lemon wedges or your favorite tartar sauce.
More fishy patties:
Traditional New England crab cakes, from The Perfect Pantry
Cod cakes with red pepper, tarragon and yogurt remoulade, from The Perfect Pantry
Salmon and quinoa patties with lemon yogurt sauce, from The Perfect Pantry
Cod fish and yuca cakes, from My Colombian Recipes
Thai fish cakes with spicy mayo, from All Day I Dream About Food
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