For those hastily made weeknight dinners, canned salmon can…
Not being terribly "continental," we Americans tend to hit the supermarket once a week, rather than shopping for fresh stuff for dinner every day. Hence, the pantry. In your arsenal of fall-back foods to use for dinner when you can't get to the supermarket, there are undoubtedly a few cans of things designed to engender a quick family supper. Soups, undoubtedly. And tuna, most likely. Another goodie you might want to keep in stock is canned salmon.
Canned pink or red salmon is even lower in calories than fresh salmon (less fat), yet provides plenty of heart-healthy omega 3s and vitamin B-12. Canned salmon is also a good source of niacin, vitamin B-6 and calcium.
Of course, there's the sodium issue. So when purchasing, try to get the salmon that's not packed with salt. Further, you'll know you've selected the best brand of canned salmon when you find bright colored meat and deeply colored oil.
Then there's the budget factor. Let's face it, canned salmon is a good deal and helps you feed the family on the cheap, so you can tell the gang that you might be able to splurge on shrimp the next time you make it to the seafood market.
Our exercise du jour, then, is to transform canned salmon into interesting, nutritious and cheap dinners. Here are a few ideas.
(Retro) salmon wiggle
A defining moment in my growing-up years — and that of my birth family, actually — was when I took cooking lessons in junior high school and learned how to make white sauce (aka bechamel, becciamella, etc.). I took my new-found knowledge home to mom, who immediately glommed onto the method and began fixing creamed salmon on toast (aka salmon wiggle) for Friday night suppers instead of the cod fish cakes that were dietary staples at the time.
Since she managed to serve seven of us with one can of salmon, you can imagine how much of the canned fish we actually got. Mashed potatoes (Dad was s-o-o-o Irish) and canned green beans or peas were the usual side dishes. The fact that she also prepared a velvet crumb cake (Bisquick recipe), to be served with canned fruit cocktail for dessert, had us eating the salmon wiggle with relish (actually, a lot of catsup).
Fact is, this was (and is) comfort; and you can sell it to your family as such (don't forget dessert). Besides, if you don't know how to make white sauce, here's your chance to learn.
P.S. Once you've mastered white sauce, you can use the same recipe to make macaroni and cheese, but add some dry mustard and a bit of Worcestershire to the flour mixture (after it's smooth and bubbly) and add 1 cup or so of sharp cheddar cheese to the mixture after it has thickened. Whisk until cheese has melted. Baking optional.
P.P.S. Try parsley potatoes instead of mashed. Serve with fresh peas or green beans amandine. Or fix a salad.
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper
1/8 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, optional
2 1/2 to 3 cups milk (skim milk will work, though 2 percent is better)
1 to 2 (15 1/2-ounce) cans pink or red salmon (canned without salt), drained, skin and bones removed, lightly flaked
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill, plus additional dill sprigs (garnish)
Toasted English muffins, or whole grain artisanal bread slices, for serving
In a medium saucepan, over low heat, melt butter. Stir in flour, black pepper and red pepper flakes, if using. Whisk constantly until mixture is smooth and bubbly, about 2 minutes. Whisk 2 minutes more; do not burn. Slowly whisk in milk, then cook, whisking frequently, until mixture thickens. If mixture gets too thick, add a little more milk.
Stir in salmon and the 1 tablespoon dill. Spoon over toast. Garnish with dill sprigs. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
You could form this mixture into a fish shape and bake on a spray-coated baking sheet (takes less time to bake), but we're not quite that whimsical.
Try the loaf with steamed carrots with a bit of butter and mint. And mashed potatoes or fries.
2 (15 1/2-ounce) cans salmon, drained (save liquid) and flaked
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups coarse (use a rolling pin or the food processor) cracker crumbs (we like to mix Ritz and reduced-sodium saltines)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon each, minced onion and red bell pepper
2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon coarse black pepper
2 drops hot sauce (e.g. Tabasco)
Lemon wedges, garnish
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
In a measuring cup, add enough milk to reserved salmon mixture to measure 1 1/2 cups. In a large bowl, combine salmon and eggs. In a medium bowl, mix cracker crumbs, lemon juice, onion, bell pepper, parsley, black pepper and hot sauce. Add crumb mixture and liquid/milk mixture to salmon and eggs. Stir well. Add more crumbs if mixture is too thin; more liquid if mixture is too thick. Taste for seasonings.