Salmon Pie

Yep, still blogging about things I made months ago. Right now, it’s the first full week of April, and I’m getting around to documenting what we ate for Christmas dinner. But I truly believe that with the bright pink of the salmon  and the flecks of green tarragon in the crust that this is at its heart a spring time dish. As proof, I offer the following picture of the vegetables I used in my stock:

Don’t the colors and the sun light sing spring to you? What’s that? You don’t hear choruses from your food and that’s just me? Oh… how embarrassing… moving on…

I made this for dinner on Christmas Day but this was technically part of my family’s Christmas Eve dinner. My brother and his family arrived in Seattle on the evening of the 25th so our plan was to delay Christmas Day activities (present opening and swiping a Morrison family tradition, cinnamon rolls) until the morning of the 26th. My dad wanted to have roast beast for dinner but since my brother and his family are pescatarian, I volunteered to figure out an alternative main dish. This salmon pie idea seemed like a good fancy yet comforting meal to meet that need.

Unable to locate fish stock for my sauce, I opted to make my own vegetable stock instead. Since I wanted a soft anise flavor in the background of the cream sauce in the pie, I had the stems of fennel bulbs to use in my stock, along with some tomatoes, half a purple onion, carrots, celery and some dried shiitakes to boost up a meaty flavor. The stock simmering on the stove in the late afternoon was so homey on a holiday afternoon!

Let me emphasize how easily this all came together. To boost up the anise flavor in the pie, I added flecks of fresh tarragon to my pie dough that I always make quickly and easily with my handy food processor. The salmon was cooked in a hands off and flavor enhancing process by roasting it in my oven. And to save on chopping and cutting, I used a frozen vegetable mix. The one step that sounds laborious was that I was unable to find frozen pearl onions so I opted for fresh ones instead. This means having to remove their thin skins before cooking, but I have to say that this was less difficult and tons more fun than I thought. I boiled them for 10 minutes then dunked them in an ice bath. Cut off the tip of a pearl onion and then squeeze, squish and the onion pops out of its skin whole. What’s that? I’m the only one who finds squishing pearl onions to be fun? Oh… how embarrassing… moving on…

So anyway, I only swiped a bite of this pie when served so as to save as much of it for Ted and Michelle as I could, but this was really good! The crust was buttery but danced with flecks of fresh licorice from the tarragon which cut through nicely into the creamy sauce. The crunch of the vegetables and firmness of flecks of salmon  were textures that contrasted with the flaky crust. Try out this seasonally versatile pie for your next gathering!

Crust

Vegetable Stock

  • Stems and the fronds reserved from 1 large fennel bulb
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 5-6 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 2 medium celery stalks, chopped
  • 1/2 purple onion
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 small bunch of parsley
  • 3-4 stalks of fresh thyme
  • 6 cups water
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil

Filling

  • 1 lb salmon fillet
  • 1/2 bag of mixed frozen vegetables (I use the soup variety since it has snap peas for a little fancier touch)
  • 2 tsp olive oil plus 1 tbsp, divided
  • 8 oz pearl onions, skinned
  • 2 medium shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large fennel bulb, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 4 tbsp butter, divided
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 2.5 cups vegetable stock (see above or use store-bought)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh tarragon
  • salt and pepper

Make the crust according to recipe directions, only omit the sugar. As dough is just about to come together, add the tarragon to the food processor bowl so that it blends in. Divide dough in half and press into flat, 1 inch thick disks. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let rest for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days in the refrigerator.

Make the vegetable stock by heating about 1 tbsp olive oil in the bottom of a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Toss in all the vegetables and let them saute for about 10-15 minutes to develop their flavors. Add the water and herbs then bring to a light simmer, not a boil. Let simmer uncovered for 1.5 hours then strain out the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Take first disk of dough and let it sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes so that it can warm up before rolling. Roll out so it fits into a 9 or 9.5 inch pie plate. Fit into pie plate and trim edges, leaving a 1/2 inch overhang. Put pie plate back in the fridge to chill while you make the rest of the filling.

In a large roasting pan, add 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp olive oil. Place the roasting pan in the oven and preheat to 400 degrees, letting the fats heat in the pan while the oven warms up. Dry off the salmon with paper towels then sprinkle both sides liberally with salt and pepper. Place the salmon skin side down and roast in the oven for 10 minutes. Flip the salmon over so it’s flesh side down and continue to roast for another 10 minutes or until the flesh is opaque lightly browned. Remove from the oven and reduce the heat to 350 degrees. When salmon is cooled to the touch, use your fingers or a fork to flake off bite sized pieces of salmon and set aside.

Take out the second pie dough disk so it can warm up for rolling while you finish preparing the filling. In a large skillet, heat 2 tsp olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots, fennel, and garlic and saute for about 5 minutes or until the vegetables have softened slightly. Add the butter and once it melts, sprinkle the vegetables evenly with the flour, stirring continuously until the flour is absorbed. Let this mixture cook for about 2 minutes then add 2.5 cups of vegetable stock until the roux dissolves. Fold in the frozen vegetables, pearl onions and flaked salmon. Stir in the cream then reduce the heat to medium low, letting the sauce simmer while you roll out the top crust.

Roll out the remaining pie crust to fit your pie plate. Pour the sauce mixture into the chilled pie bottom then brush the edges of the bottom crust with the egg wash. Lay the top crust down and trim the edges to a 1/2 inch over hang. Lightly press the dough down so it seals with the bottom crust that you’ve brushed with egg wash. Crimp the crust edges with a fork. Using a paring knife, cut a few slits in the top of the pie then brush with the remaining egg wash. Sprinkle flecks of sea salt on top if you wish then set in the oven to bake, about 45-50 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting and serving in wedges.

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