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May 26, 2015
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WINE WITH…Smoked Salmon with Potato Cakes

When beautiful spring weather finally chased away winter’s gloomy chill, we wanted to prepare a dish that would be as light and lovely as the season itself. We were aiming for something relatively effortless,
and that would call for doing most of the prep work in advance (giving us more time to spend out in the garden!). The dish we came up with exceeded our expectations in every way, from the charm and simplicity of the ingredients, to its delicately nuanced flavors and textures. The convenience of making the potato cakes in advance was a definite bonus. We enjoyed this dish as a light supper main course accompanied by a simple green salad, but it could also play a starring role at a brunch or a summery luncheon.

Smoked Salmon With Potato Cakes

Serves 2

These potato cakes are not crispy, like latkes; they’re lighter in texture and more, well, cake-like. You could assemble them at the last minute, but they will hold together better if they’re prepared a few hours (and up to a day) ahead of time and refrigerated until just before baking.

2-3 medium potatoes
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup milk
salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten
6-8 ounces smoked salmon, thinly sliced or torn into pieces
About 2/3 cup sour cream or crème fraîche
About 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives

Cook the potatoes in water until tender. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, peel and begin mashing them, adding 1 tablespoon of the butter. When the butter has been thoroughly incorporated, add the milk and salt and pepper, and continue mashing until the mixture is fairly smooth. Then beat in the egg.

Lightly grease a sided baking sheet with vegetable oil (we like to line the pan with parchment paper, lightly oiled). Form the mashed potatoes into 4 to 6 patties and arrange them on the pan. Lightly press a small piece of the remaining tablespoon of butter onto the top of each potato cake. Refrigerate the potato cakes until ready to assemble the finished dish.

Preheat the oven to 400°. Bake the potato cakes for about 15-20 minutes, or until they are cooked clear through and lightly browned. Arrange them on individual serving plates and top with the smoked salmon, a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of chives. Pass the remaining sour cream at the table.

* * *

This dish clearly calls for a white or rosé wine, as reds, even if light-bodied, will contain tannins that will clash with the taste of the salmon. But so too will oaky whites--in their case, not because of tannins so much as because of the char from barrels. That vanilla or butterscotch taste can mesh wonderfully with some foods, but it invariably turns smoked salmon unpleasantly fishy. What you need instead is a clean, fresh wine, one whose charm comes from its liveliness and fruity, even mineral-tinged character. Here are five that excited us, but as always, the specific bottles are less important than the general profile they share.

Questions or Comments? Contact us at Talkofthevine@gmail.com


Approx. Price


Patient Cottat, Vin de France (France) Chenin Blanc “Le Grand Caillou” 2013

(Imported by Vineyard Brands)


Tasting of fresh but not fully ripe (so not sweet) pears, this wine offers plenty of flavor, refreshing acidity, and a clean, long finish. It tasted even better with the salmon than when sipped on its own.

Giocato, Primorska Region (Slovenia) Pinot Grigio 2012

(Imported by Largo Wines)


Slovenia shares a boarder with Friuli, the line being a political creation made without regard to geography. Pinot Grigio grows equally well in vineyards in both countries, and this wine offers the typical dry, flinty character of the varietal when grown there. It’s a bit rounder on the palate than some, and offers genuine complexity in the finish, so is well worth buying even if you know little about its homeland.

Koenig Vineyards, Snake River Valley (Idaho) Viognier Williamson Vineyard, 2012


A surprising wine (at least to us), because unlike California or even Washington renditions of Viognier, it feels light on the palate and so refreshes above all else. It shows a floral bouquet and peachy fruit flavors, and has plenty of acidity, so more than held its own with the dish.

Rieflé, Crémant d’Alsace (France) Brut Rosé “Bonheur Festif” NV

(Imported by Maritime Wine Trading Collective)


Bubbly and smoked salmon can be a heavenly match, and this particular pairing was every bit as good as we hoped it would be. The wine has fresh berry fruit and a hint of tastiness on the palate, the latter note working especially well with the potato cakes. We’ve been quite impressed with Crémants from Rieflé lately, and this wine only added to our enthusiasm.

Via Nova, Valdeorras (Spain) Godello 2013

(Imported by Steve Miles Selections)


A delicious partner, this Godello offers bright green and yellow fruit flavors, with a hint of herbaceousness that only enhances its appeal. Given that flavor profile, it’s not surprising that the wine meshed seamlessly with both the potatoes and the salmon, and that it accented the chives—which ended up being much more than a colorful note mon our plates.