Saturday, January 11, 2014

Canned Salmon, Then and Now

Canned salmon was one of the odder foods that my mother would, on occasion, serve for dinner. I can't say "cook" or "prepare" for dinner because, really, she just opened the can and dumped it out in a bowl. There it would sit, the cylindrical, fishy flesh still stamped with the rings from the can, sitting in a puddle of its juices.

I remember she actually liked it…it may have been one of those food memories from WWII, when a can of salmon, along with other foods like Spam and margarine, were considered an exotic treat in the small town in Eastern Oregon where she grew up. Her three children, on the other hand, mostly poked at it, trying to extricate the bones that were hiding somewhere in the cold flesh, nibbling just enough of it to qualify the diner for dessert.

These days, luckily, a tin of salmon can be a treat, especially when it's packed in its own juices. Just look on the label (above left) and if all you see on the ingredient list is salmon and salt—with no water or oil added—then you know it was packed fresh. It was just such a can that I was given as part of a swag bag at the Tribal Food Summit last week, a sample of wild pink salmon caught and processed by the Swinomish Fish Company in LaConner, Washington.

But what to do with it?

Something simple, for sure, to be able to appreciate the flavor of the salmon. I was originally thinking of a variation on a favorite recipe for pasta with tuna and lemon, but when I was pulling out the book containing the recipe, I also spied local author Diane Morgan's gorgeous book, Salmon (right), and pulled that out, too. Intrigued by her pasta recipe calling for an olive-mustard butter, I ended up combining those elements with the other recipe.

Turns out that capers, lemon, mustard and olives play quite well with tinned salmon. I only wish I could have made it for my mom.

Salmon Pasta with Mustard, Capers and Olives

1 lb. dried pasta
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 yellow onion
3 shallots
1 c. roughly chopped Castelvetrano olives (kalamata or oil-cured olives would also work well)
1 Tbsp. stone-ground or Dijon mustard
2-3 Tbsp. capers
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes or a pinch of cayenne
1 Tbsp. lemon zest
1/2 lemon, juiced
4-6 oz. canned salmon, flaked, or leftover roasted salmon
Salt to taste, if needed

Bring large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook till al dente.

While pasta cooks, heat oil in large skillet. When the oil shimmers, add onions and shallots and sauté till tender. Mix in olives, mustard, capers and red pepper flakes. Sauté briefly. Just before pasta is done, add lemon zest, lemon juice and salmon and combine. Keep over very low heat while you drain the pasta. Put pasta in serving bowl, add salmon mixture and toss to combine. Taste for salt, and add more if needed. Sprinkle with parmesan, with more parmesan in a bowl on the table.


pdxknitterati/MicheleLB said...

This sounds delicious! And I have some leftover salmon from tonight's dinner.

I worked in a salmon cannery on Kodiak Island for five summers to pay for college. Red salmon is way more delicious than pink salmon, just sayin.

Thanks for the recipe!

Kathleen Bauer said...

Terrific, Michele! And thanks for the "inside info" on red vs. pink salmon. Who knew?

Let me know what you think and if you make any adjustments…always love to hear back!

jeanie said...

Yum. Made this for dinner & it was wonderful. Had no shallots so I used a chopped garlic clove. Tom had seconds. Thanks!

Kathleen Bauer said...

Thanks, Jeanie! So amazing how those flavors marry perfectly, isn't it?

Give my love to Tom!