Let me lead off by saying: I’m amazed at the response that came in with regards to salmon pie. Well, not including the one ‘Yuck’, but that came from someone who doesn’t like fish, so, frankly, I’m not sure why I care what his opinion is of a fish pie.
Sorta like asking a Vegan’s opinion on a steak and kidney pie.
A little history.
I’m from New England. Gardner, Mass to be precise. Depending on how well you know Mass, I’m either about 10 miles from Mount Wachusett, 20 minutes west from Fitchburg/Leominster on Route 2, 20 minutes north, 20 minutes west from Worcester (bonus points if you just said Wooos-tah and not Wor-chest-er), or, if you’re just a Boston person, New York.
My mom is French-Canadian and her mom and dad came from Canada, thus making them my Mémère and Pémère. About once every month or two, I’d stay over at their apartment as I was growing up and I got whatever I wanted for lunch, and that was almost always salmon pie.
Which is kind of funny. I didn’t really like seafood growing up. Just that salmon pie.
We’d make the dough with crisco. We’d roll it out on a wax/plastic sheet which I still own, somewhere, I think. We’d line the pie plate with the dough. We’d make mashed potatoes. Well, ok, at this point, I was probably watching Saturday morning cartoons, so I wasn’t making any mashed anything. We’d mix mashed potatoes with canned (yes… canned) salmon and then cover the pie with the other half of the dough, brushing some milk over it.
I’d eat my share of raw dough, and we’d have some extra to make into braids which we’d cook as some odd kind of treat. I don’t entirely get it, but, we did it and it was good.
It really is a childhood taste I’ve never tried to reproduce. I don’t know why.
Or maybe I do. I’m not a baker, so the thought of trying to make pie crust from scratch scares me, and I wasn’t about to use a premade crust.
That and this pie is huge and up to semi-recently, I’ve been single and a whole pie would be overkill.
So, flash forward to now. As I mentioned, we had a whole roast salmon. And due to our cooking class getting canceled, we also had two sides of salmon.
What the hell, lets make a salmon pie.
I dropped a line to my mom who let me know that she didn’t have the recipe, but my sister did. My sister who didn’t have regular access to a computer anymore.
A day later, turns out my sister doesn’t actually have the recipe either, at least not in writing.
What follows is the recipe as delivered to me from my mom, adjusted to fit our normal formatting of recipes:
- Mashed potatoes
- Canned salmon
- Pie crust
- Peas (optional)
- Butter, 2-3 pats
- Make mashed potatoes.
- Mix with salmon.
- Put into pie crust.
- Add peas if wanted.
- Put 2-3 pats of butter on top of the salmon.
- Put top crust on the pie.
- Brush top crust with milk.
- Make vents in crust.
- Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees.
Obviously not the best of recipes. Lots of room for interpretation. So I was forced to do some searching. The first salmon pie recipe I found was from Emeril. Now, Emeril might be known for his N’awlin’s cooking, but, he’s from Fall River, Mass, his dad is French-Canadian, this might be a recipe that works.
I’m going to let Mrs. write up the pie crust after this, because she handled that side of the affair.
Blatantly adapted from Emeril Lagasse
- Salmon, 1 pound, cooked and flaked
- Olive oil, 1 tablespoon
- Onion, 1 cup, finely chopped
- Garlic, 1 tablespoon, chopped
- Mashed potatoes, 2 cups
- Egg, 1
- Heavy cream, 1/2 cup
- Savory Pie Crust (recipe follows)
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Heat the oil in a saute pan to hot, adding in the onion.
- Season with salt and pepper and sautee for a couple minutes before turning off the heat
- Add in the garlic and stir.
- Put flaked salmon, garlic and onion into a large bowl and mix, probably easiest with your hands.
- Add the mashed potatoes, the egg, and the cream into the bowl and mix well.
- Season the mixture with salt and pepper.
- Cut the pie dough in half and roll out a 12 inch circle and place it in the bottom of a 10 inch pie pan, cutting off the extra dough.
- Spoon the filling into the pie pan.
- Roll out the second half of the dough and place over the pie.
- Crimp the edges of the pie shut and brush the top with a little extra cream.
- Bake pie for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown.
Savory Pie Crust
- Flour, 3 1/4 cups
- Salt, 1 teaspoon
- Cold lard, 1 1/3 cups
- Ice water, 4-5 tablespoons
- Combine flour and salt in bowl of KitchenAid.
- Cut the lard into small pats and add it to the mixer, mixing until the lard is the size of peas.
- Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, with the mixer on medium-low.
- Continue to add and work in until you have a smooth round ball of dough.
- Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Notes: So, did this reach my childhood memories? More or less. It was better: real fresh salmon instead of canned. Lard crust instead of crisco. Added onions and garlic. And it was a little worse. The dough was dry and not as flaky as I remember. It didn’t brown well.
I want to do stuff to this recipe. I want to make it better, somehow, but I’m at a loss how. Better crust, definitely, but the filling? I might go back to adding peas again, or maybe doing something a little different to the salmon, but, it’s pretty much exactly what I wanted from my childhood.
Notes from the Mrs.: So salmon pie really worried me. I don’t usually like pot pie type dishes and this was the first time I’ve ever made a lard crust. The lard made the crust really flaky to eat, which was great, but it wasn’t so good to work with. We had a hard time keeping it together when rolling it out. Next time I”ll use half lard and half butter. I also have a few other ideas to make this differently (not better, just different).
First, I’d add bacon. Really. Bacon makes a lot of things better and I think some diced bacon mixed in with the salmon (already cooked) would add a layer of complexity to the dish that would be interesting.
Secondly, I’d use the Mr’s Mémère’s method of adding pats of butter on top of the mixture before adding the top crust. Even though our salmon was pretty moist I think it could have benefited from a tad more moisture and richness.
Beyond that though, this was a delicious meal. I admit, I only took a small piece at first. I really didn’t think I was going to like it. But I went back for seconds. Quickly.