Wednesday 30 November 2011

A Good Pantry Supper

We have several friends who love to fish, and who are kind enough to share their catch with us.  Every year we’re fortunate enough to receive quite a quantity of salmon, usually more than our small deep freeze will hold.  I put the salmon up in jars and it lasts us until the next year’s fishing season.  I love having it in the pantry.

The challenge with canned salmon seems to be coming up with something to make from it other than sandwiches.  There are old standards like salmon cakes and chowder, but even they can wear out their welcome if they appear on the dinner table too often.  I’m always on the lookout for recipes.

Some years ago, I came across a recipe for salmon loaf in a women’s magazine.  I don’t remember which magazine it was, but I do recall that I was reading it while waiting for an appointment.  I couldn’t take the magazine home with me so I copied the recipe onto the back of an old grocery list—the only piece of paper I had in my purse—intending to transcribe it later.  Instead, the recipe on the grocery list got tucked into the back of one of my cookbooks and I’ve been using it ever since.  Its current tattered and spattered condition is testimony to its popularity at our house.

Over the years, I’ve made many variations of the original salmon loaf recipe, including the one you see in this blog.  I’ve substituted different vegetables and added fresh dill when I have it.  I’ve even taken the uncooked mixture, formed it into meatballs, and baked them. They turned out really well.

It’ll never be the prettiest girl at the dance, but salmon loaf is tasty, easy to make, affordable, and versatile.  I always have the ingredients (or reasonable substitutions) on hand, so it makes a great fall back recipe for days when I can't make it to the grocery store.

I often serve our salmon loaf just as it is when it comes out of the oven, but it’s also very good with either hollandaise sauce or béchamel. 

There are only two of us and this recipe makes about six servings so I'm grateful that the cooked loaf freezes well.  I let the leftover part of the loaf cool, cut it into slices, wrap the slices individually, and freeze them.  When I’m ready to use the frozen slices I allow then to thaw completely, then cook them on a griddle in a little bit of butter.  Griddling adds a little bit of crust to the outside of the slices, making a nice texture.

One of my favourite brunch dishes is a slice of griddled salmon loaf topped with a poached egg and some hollandaise sauce; like Eggs Benedict.  

To make a salmon loaf, you need:

  • 1 pint jar (or two 8-ounce tins) of canned salmon, drained, with 2 Tablespoons the liquid reserved.  (I used pink salmon because that’s what I have on hand.  Sockeye makes a more colourful loaf but pink salmon tastes just fine.)
  • 2 cups soft breadcrumbs
  • 2/3 cup chopped bell pepper (or whatever other vegetable you care to substitute.  I’ve even used sliced black olives.  They work great.)
  • 1/3 cup minced onion
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • A dash of pepper
If you’re using home-canned salmon, you’ll probably want to add some salt to the mixture. 

A couple of teaspoonfuls of fresh dill make a nice addition too, if you happen to have some on hand.

Flake the salmon.  Combine it with the reserved liquid from the jar or cans, and the remaining ingredients.  Make sure the ingredients are well combined but try not to overwork them.  Place the mixture in a well greased loaf pan.

Bake the salmon loaf at 350º Fahrenheit for 45 minutes.  It will take on a little colour around the edges and it'll firm up into a loaf that can be easily sliced.  Serve it piping hot.

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