One of the first dinners I ever made came from one of my mom’s Company’s Coming cookbooks – I don’t know if you can get those books in the states, but at one time everyone’s Canadian mother had them; I remember a row of them in the pantry cupboard, each book’s plastic spiral-bind a different colour. The recipe was for “Salmon Balls,” which I’ll admit does not sound tremendously appetizing. But it was, as it was little more than rice, canned salmon, and Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup. It was salty, creamy, and very comforting – perfect for one of these Canadian Januarys.
Of course, some things have changed, and around here we’re not really big on canned soups or heavily processed foods in general. I believe very strongly that if something’s going to be bad for you, it should be bad for you for the right reasons. This is why there are things like triple-creme brie, bacon, and bourbon. Besides, this version isn’t really bad for you, if you don’t eat it all the time. The ingredients are pronounceable, and you can easily substitute the things you aren’t sure of. Where I used a cup of sour cream, you could just as easily use yogurt; where I used white rice, you could use brown and adjust the cooking time. I’ve also crammed a few extra veggies in, so bonus points for that.
Also, this easily uses up a plateful of leftover fish, which earns you double bonus points.
But since it’s January and the whole city’s covered in a thick slurp of beige slush, there’s little reason not to go ahead and use the sour cream and white rice. Maybe you also have a hole in the sole of your boot and your work pants didn’t make it into the laundry this week and your hair just hates this weather – there are so many reasons to indulge right now, and who’d blame you?
Salmon and mushroom casserole
(Serves four to six.)
- 1 lb. cooked salmon, chilled, bones removed
- 1/2 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
- 1/2 cup finely grated carrot
- Half of one onion, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup minced celery
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- Zest and juice of one lemon
- 2 eggs
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
Mushroom cream sauce:
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- Half of one onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 lb. mushrooms, chopped
- 1 tsp. dried savory
- 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
- 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1 cup sour cream
- Salt, to taste
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a large bowl, combine salmon, rice, carrot, onion, celery, parsley, lemon zest and juice, eggs, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Mush the whole thing together with your hands until thoroughly combined. Form into balls about an inch and a half in diameter (you should end up with 14 to 16), and set aside.
In a large pan over medium-high heat, add oil and onions and cook until onions are translucent, three to five minutes. Add garlic, mushrooms, savory, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, and cayenne, and cook until mushrooms have sweat and no liquid remains in the bottom of the pan, about another five minutes. Add flour, stir to coat, and then add milk and sour cream. Cook until liquid comes to a gentle boil. Taste, and adjust seasonings as needed.
Ladle a small amount of the cream sauce into the bottom of a 1.5- to 2-quart casserole dish. Line the bottom with a layer of balled salmon, then ladle half of the remaining sauce over top. Place remaining salmon balls over top, and then top with remaining sauce.
Cover, and bake for one hour. If you’re using a casserole dish that doesn’t have a bit of an edge to it, place the dish on top of a cookie sheet before putting it in the oven, as the sauce will bubble up around the sides.
Serve over rice, with a sprinkling of fresh parsley.
Also, if you haven’t voted and my relentless (if self-conscious) badgering hasn’t turned you off this blog completely, please visit the Canadian Food Blog Awards voting page and select Well fed, flat broke. Voting will close this Saturday, January 15. After that, I’m pretty sure we’ll go back to business as usual.
Which, you know, means a lot of photos of my cat, which are completely out of context for a food blog.