I love bulgur! Therefore, I decided that it would stand to reason that I would love bulgur cakes as well. Never mind that I have never had one. I mean, there are just some things that you know you are going to like even before you actually experience them. Has that ever happened to you? When something comes to mind and you just know it’s going to be great? Tell me it’s not just me.
I love bulgur so much that I worried about not finding it in our small town of Newton. That’s why, just before we left the Phoenix area, I went to the local Mediterranean market and grill and got some extra to take with us on the move. Then, I was standing in the pantry the other day, racking my brain to come up with something original as a side to pan-seared scallops, and it came to me! Crispy bulgur cakes! My mind created a new dish!
Problem was, I wasn’t quite sure how to make them. So, I went online and started researching and got my bubble burst right away. Turns out I didn’t invent anything. Bulgur cakes already exist, and there are several recipes out there. What was interesting is that every single one of them was different. And none of them matched what I had pictured in my mouth’s eye (I know it is “mind’s eye”, but we’re talking food). So, I picked ingredients that I thought would match the flavor I tasted in my mind and went to town.
Home run! First time out! Doesn’t usually happen, people. I could go on and on about my less-than-stellar first attempts. I had one just this weekend. But I lucked out with these bulgur cakes. I was so excited that I knew I had to make them the very next blog post.
By the way, I sincerely apologize for the infrequent shares since our move to Kansas. Not only are there still a million little things going on that keep pulling me away, but Steve was home for two weeks straight as well.
Don’t get me wrong, I love having my hubby home as often as possible. But, since he is gone so much, when he is home, I have trouble focusing time and energy on a project as involved as a blog post.
When Steve works from home, he’s frequently in his office doing analysis, or participating in conference calls, or one-on-one sessions with his team. He fits in little breaks and his meals around those efforts. I find it makes me uncomfortable to be tied up with something I can’t stop when he does free up, so I busy myself with other little chores that I can easily walk away from if needed. Since the man was on the road for 5 weeks straight before this 2-week stint, I adjusted my schedule accordingly. Because, you know, I like having lunch together as a couple. 🙂
let’s start with cooking the bulgur!
This recipe turned out to be a bit of a two-step process, which actually makes it easier to make. See, you can cook the bulgur in advance, even a day or two, and then assemble and fry the cakes whenever you want.
If you follow the blog and know that we prepare white rice in Brazil a bit differently, you’ll recognize that I decided to infuse the bulgur with a ton of flavor during cooking so that the bulgur cakes would have even more layers of flavor. So, the onion, garlic, and olive oil come from the Brazilian preparation of white rice. But I wanted even more flavor, so I used chicken broth instead of water. For a vegetarian bulgur cake, you can substitute vegetable broth.
Sauté the onions and garlic in olive oil until the onions are slightly tender, then add the bulgur. Stir to incorporate.
Then add the broth. Taste for salt and adjust as needed. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce to low, and simmer for 20 minutes or until all the broth has been absorbed and the bulgur is tender.
Then either store it in the refrigerator for later use or allow it to cool completely before assembling the bulgur cakes.
now let’s assemble and fry the cakes
This is what you will need to prepare the bulgur cakes. The cooked bulgur needs to be at room temperature so that it does not melt the mayo or cook the egg (if you prepared it just prior to assembling the cakes). If the bulgur is cold from being in the refrigerator, the ingredients may not bind as well as they would at room temperature.
Mix everything but the panko together in a large mixing bowl. Stir it so all the ingredients are incorporated.
At this point, you want to check for salt. Take a little pinch and microwave it for about 10-15 seconds. Taste and adjust for salt as needed. You can always cook up another pinch to make sure.
Then shape the mixture into 6 same-sized cakes and coat them with panko.
THIS IS IMPORTANT, NOW… please be aware that the raw cakes are pretty fragile. When you shape them, use more side than top pressure to pack the cake together. And when dredging the cake in the panko, support the entire cake with your hand or a spatula to lift and flip. Otherwise, the cake will fall apart on you.
Here’s the deal. The cheese and mayo come together during cooking to firm up the cake. Once fried, they are not nearly so fragile. But if you put too much binding agent in the mix, the cakes will be too dense and heavy. Taking care at this stage makes for a better cooked product, so prepare to be a little patient and use a bit of care.
Then fry those babies in about 1/2-inch of oil. About 4-5 minutes per side until a beautiful golden brown.
Transfer to a paper-lined tray. Let them drain just for a minute on one side, then turn to blot and drain the other side. If you leave the first side down without flipping, that side will get soggy and you will lose some of the crispiness.
Then serve right away or place in a warm oven for a few minutes until you are ready to serve.
These are SO delicious they defy description. The inside of the bulgur cake is beautifully colored and seasoned from the broth and the turmeric. The onion, garlic, and parsley add gorgeous layers of depth, the mayo and cheese are just enough to hold the cake together while keeping it moist. And the panko. The panko gives this bulgur cake such a light and crispy exterior! The combination of flavors and textures rocks!
As I said, we had ours with pan seared scallops. But it would pair beautifully with anything. Shoot, if you don’t need protein, these could be a meal on their own.
I’m in love, and if you give these a try, I bet you will be too!
- FOR THE BULGUR
- ½ cup bulgur, medium grind
- ¼ cup onion, chopped small
- 1 medium garlic, diced
- 1 cup low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- FOR THE BULGUR CAKES
- Cooked bulgur from the recipe above, room temperature
- ½ cup shredded Colby/Jack cheese
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- ¼ teaspoon sweet paprika
- ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
- 2 cups (or as needed) panko, for dredging
- Canola oil for frying
- Cook the bulgur in advance and allow to cool.
- To cook the bulgur, sauté onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until the onion is slightly softened. Add the bulgur, stir to incorporate, cover with the broth. Taste for salt and adjust if needed.
- Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the broth has been fully absorbed and the bulgur is tender.
- Allow to cool.
- Heat ½-inch of canola oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat.
- In a large mixing bowl, add all of the ingredients except the salt, oil, and panko. Stir until everything is incorporated. You can microwave a small pinch for 10-15 seconds to taste for salt. Adjust as needed.
- Gently shape 6 equally-sized cakes, then dredge in the panko until coated. Transfer to a tray and prepare to fry the cakes.
- Fry the cakes all at once in the hot oil, about 4-5 minutes per side or until golden brown.
- Transfer to a paper-lined tray. Allow the bottom to drain into the paper lining for about 1 minute, then immediately flip to the other side to prevent the bottom from becoming soggy.
- Serve immediately or place in a keep-warm oven for a few minutes until ready to serve.