When I read an older cookbook, I am drawn to the recipes that sound a little funny and old-fashioned: stuffed breast of veal, pork chops flambé, Indian pudding. I’m pleased to say that not once did this method lead me astray when applied to The James Beard Cookbook. From now on I will turn to this fat little no-nonsense paperback often, but I do think it would be dauntingly vague for beginning cooks of the less confident sort. And I do still feel as if I don’t know much about James Beard and his career. I will have to turn to the collection Beard on Food or track down his autobiography for that.
This week I settled on scalloped salmon, a casserole made with canned salmon, expecting it to be either brilliant or disgusting. (If disgusting it would at least, I thought, give me a taste of the kind of thing my unfortunate mother had to force down on Fridays in the fifties and sixties as a Catholic schoolgirl.) In the end the dish was neither brilliant nor disgusting, but rather a comforting sort of thing I’ll be happy to make again when the larder is looking bare. With its sturdy vegetables and tinned fish, it made me feel economical and housewifely and could be a good end-of-grocery-week standby. The best way to describe it is perhaps as a large fish cake, easier to produce than individual cakes and baked instead of fried (although full of butter, so perhaps no healthier). It might also be interesting to try this with cooked potato flesh standing in for the crumbs.
- 2 cans salmon
- 1 1/2 cups coarse cracker crumbs (I used panko)
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 large onions, chopped
- 1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
- Salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup melted butter
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
He says to remove all skin and bones from the salmon, but I am lazy and the skin and bones are edible and good for you, so I left them in. Flake the salmon and combine with the crumbs and chopped vegetables. Season with salt and pepper and then stir in the melted butter and beaten eggs. Pour into a buttered 9 x 13 inch casserole and dot the top with more butter. Bake in a 375°F oven for 30 minutes.