Experiential Cookery – Savory Smoked Salmon and Asparagus Fritters. Or maybe they’re pancakes.

Side View - Asparagus Smoked Salmon Fritter / Stuffed Pancake

Side View – Asparagus Smoked Salmon Fritter / Stuffed Pancake

What is the difference between fritters and pancakes? What’s in a name? A batter of flour, milk, and eggs is common to both, although the flour may be amended by almost any additional starch, such as potato, and enhanced by rising agents such as baking soda or baking powder.

You make a pancake by frying a small amount in a pan to form a thin cake (a cake fried in a pan, aha!), which you can offer a slightly Continental flair by calling it a crêpe.

But it’s still a pancake.

You will typically serve this basic pancake with butter. Sugar. Maple syrup! Distilled fruit juices. You can even fill it up by folding or rolling it around something. Like bananas. Or blueberries. Or. . .Bacon!!

So that’s a pancake. If you dip a filling in the raw batter, then fry it up, voila! You have a fritter. Now this is – of course – more of a guideline then a rule, but you see where we’re going with this. My take, after much observation of fritterists and pancakistas is that:

If there’s more stuff than batter, it’s a fritter. If there’s more batter than stuff, it’s a pancake. Pancakes and fritters have both been around for a very long time – see the recipe snipped below.

Take whete floure, Ale 3est, Safroun, & Salt, & bete alle to-gederys as þikke as þou schuldyst make oþer bature in fleyssche tyme; & þan take fayre Applys, & kut hem in maner of Fretourys, & wete hem in þe bature vp on downne, & frye hem in fayre Oyle, & caste hem in a dyssche; & caste Sugre þer-on, & serue forth.

Or, in somewhat more modern English!

Take wheat flour, ale yeast (or ale and yeast?), saffron and salt. Beat it all together as thick as you would make other batter on meat days. Then take good apples and cut them in the manner of fritters. Dip them in the batter up and down and bake them in good oil. Lay them on a dish, sprinkle sugar on them, and serve them.

Note: This lovely recipe, and its translation into modern English, as well as many other fascinating medieval recipes, can be found in the brilliantly curated collection “Coquinaria” by culinary historian Christianne Muusers, http://www.coquinaria.nl/english/introduction.htmNow that probably sounded good in the 1400s and it sounds good today!

Experiential Cooking – Cooking on the Fly

Fritters - or pancakes - in the pan!

Fritters – or pancakes – in the pan!

We frequently have more leftovers than we know what to do with. Sometimes we’re able to invite friends over and feed them, thus relieving some of our leftover problem, but sometimes we just have to settle back and take one for the team.

When you cook with leftovers, you generally don’t follow specific recipes, because most of your ingredients are already prepared and are frequently pretty random!

Instead, you’re likely to think about flavor profiles, types of dishes, and modifications.

So it was with these savory pancakes – or heavily battered fritters.

I had a container full of freshly steamed red potatoes. Steamed while whole, they had a good deal of ‘bite’ – potatoes al dente?

And, thanks to some enthusiastic over-buying coupled with a last-minute regret from our son and daughter-in-law for dinner, I had a container full of lox trim. You know lox trim? When you’re cutting lox, with those long sweeping cuts across the side of salmon, you end up with lots – lots, I say!  – of trimmings. And the markets typically gather these up in plastic containers to sell at a hefty discount. You might not want lox trim for your gorgeous bagel with lox and a schmear, but you definitely need lox trim for things like pasta with lox, smoked salmon dip and now – savory pancakes.

I thought “potato pancakes with lox trim” – that sounded like a win, and you can make a very decent grade of latke using mashed potatoes. Though they will not be like my father’s latkes, they’ll be awfully good!

Then I started mashing the potatoes coarsely with a fork. And adding thinly sliced scallions because they’re good. And chives, also good. Salt, tiny bit of onion, and then I saw a bundle of fresh asparagus.

That’s when everything went off the rails, sticking-with-the-plan-wise. Without realizing what I was doing, I cleaned the asparagus stalks, cut them into approximately 1″ pieces, and blanched them in a pot of salted, boiling water. Drained, shook dry and added to the mashed potato mix.

That was when I realized I was making something more like a fritter. So I broke out the flour, and an egg, and a very small amount of milk, and mixed them in.

Factory Tip: When you’re making any dish experientially, ongoing tasting is critical!! It’s important whenever you’re cooking, but for experiential cookery, it’s a must!!

So, I ended up with a potato and flour batter with quite a lot of asparagus and smoked lox mixed in. I began thinking about blintzes and so, added a bit of grated sharp cheddar. Cheese is what a blintz lives for!

But what to do with this engaging, gooey mixture? I made a little aioli – OK, I took some Hellman’s mayo (shortcut!!) and mixed in a couple of cloves of finely minced, then mashed, garlic, and a few good squeezes of lemon. And a tiny bit of cayenne, just because. That’s as far as I got, but it worked pretty well.

Heated the fry pan, put a very light slick of oil (~1TB) on it, waited until the oil was shimmering and dancing, added a dollop of the batter, mooshed it down a little with the back of a large spoon, waited until it began bubbling a little on top, then flipped it. Another couple of minutes on the other side and it was ready.

I stored the prepared savory pancake / fritters on a plate layered with paper towels.

And they were a hit!! Folks loved ’em, which – I have to admit – is always gratifying. Here’s the recipe – and keep in mind this is an experiential recipe – feel free to add, subtract, change and ignore as you will – the basic idea is “smoked fish and veggies in a kind of fritter with a *lot* of batter, which may include potatoes”.


  • 1/4 lb. lox trim. Or lox, or smoked salmon, as long as you cut it up and as long as it’s not heavily smoked
  • 1-1/2 lb. red or white or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, steamed or boiled until you can just pierce them with a fork
  • 1/2 C. all purpose flour or enough to make a thick batter
  • 1/2 C. thinly sliced green onions, white and green parts both
  • (optional) 2 Tb. dried or 3 Tb. fresh minced chive
  • (optional) roughly chopped fresh parsley or cilantro, about a handful
  • (optional but good for that blintzy feel!) 2 oz. grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 – 1/3 C. milk or half and half (we used half and half), to make a thick batter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. fine sea salt
  • a few twists of fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. dried dill weed
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • olive oil for frying


Roughly mash the potatoes with a large fork. Add all the other ingredients (except the olive oil) and mix well to a thick batter, adding more liquid as necessary to attain battery goodness. If you’re using lox trim or cut up bits of smoked salmon, moosh them around a bit with the fork

Heat a large frypan. Add a couple of teaspoons of olive oil to the pan and heat the oil until it loosens up and begins to shimmy gladly over the surface. You do not want to use much oil at all, and you want both the pan and oil to be quite hot at the beginning.

Add a large dollop of batter to the pan and lightly press it down with the back of your spoon. Repeat until the pan is filled, remember to leave a bit of space between the fritters / pancakes – they’ll expand.

Turn the heat down a bit to medium – the idea is you don’t want to scorch the bottoms, but you want enough heat to brown them a bit and do so quickly!

When the pancakes / fritters begin to bubble a little on the top, they’re ready to flip. Flip them and cook for another 2-3 minutes, then keep them warm on a plate layered with paper towels. Repeat until you’ve used all the batter.

Serve immediately with aioli or a sauce or your own devising. We have also served these with pickled red onions, which worked quite well!

Serve with a little aioli or the Sauce You Desire - green salad is nice too!

Serve with a little aioli or the Sauce You Desire – green salad is nice too!