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Salmon Cakes with Guajillo-Balsamic Syrup

I know it’s gonna sound like I’m going all Frenchy-fancy, putting a guajillo-balsamic syrup for god’s sake, on top of my salmon cakes, but I swear — I promise! — that it’s easy, and not as weird as it sounds.

It does look a bit like I poured blackstrap molasses on top of my delicate, crispy little salmon cakes, but I assure you, I did not.

How’d I get the idea? It’s so funny how stuff comes together in your head and then – poof! – just like that, a new idea is born. I’d made salmon before and added a splash of balsamic vinegar at the end, and I remembered how much I liked the sweet taste of the vinegar and the salmon. Also, recently, I’d made a dressing with guajillo chiles and garlic that I’d served over a flank steak salad, and really fell in love with the little guajillo chile; which is to say, that I fell hard. I’ve been thinking about what else I could guajillo-up ever since. So that was going on in my head, too. And I’d recently seen something about balsamic syrup.

So, somewhere between getting up in the morning, doing yoga, walking Rose at Parc St. Cloud and parking the car in the underground garage on my return, trying not to hit: a) Xavier’s motorcycle b) the two bicycles c) the cement post on the left d) the cement wall on the right e) the much too-narrow, also concrete, ramp to level 2 parking (all of which I’ve smashed into recently), I had my Oprah Winfrey-lightbulb-guajillo-balsamic-syrup moment.

I like to make the salmon cakes right after lunch, and stick them in the fridge, so they’re ready for dinner. You can make the GBS beforehand, too, but just know that when you reheat it, it’ll thicken up like tar.

Salmon Cakes


1 lb. skinless salmon filet, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
½ baguette, torn into small pieces
1 egg, lightly beaten
¼ teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoons chopped chives (or shallots or scallions will do)
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt

1. Mix together salmon, bread, egg, cayenne, chives, lemon zest and sea salt.

2. Form four cakes, and let them rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour (this will allow the egg, bread and salmon to come together).

3. Heat olive oil in a heavy, nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Cool salmon cakes, turning just once, until golden and just cooked through, 6-7 minutes total.

Guajillo-Balsamic Syrup

⅔ cup balsamic vinegar
1 guajillo chile, seeds and stem removed
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
sea salt

1. Put the olive oil in a skillet and turn on medium. Add whole cloves of garlic and dried guajillo chile.

2. Flatten the chile with a spatula and flip to the other side. This will take no longer than 5 to 10 seconds per side.

3. Put the chile in a bowl of very warm water and let steep for 15 minutes, until soft.

4. Once the chile is soft, put in a food processor with the garlic and pulse. Add balsamic vinegar, and cook mixture over low heat until it reduces by half, or coats the back of a spoon.