Two days in a row cooking a sort of white sauce base, but using completely different primary ingredients. As I said in my “On The Side” sidebar yesterday I forgot to defrost something in time enough for dinner so I opted for the easiest thing to defrost – fish! I also had about 1 1/2 lbs of spinach that was in danger of being forgotten….I first pulled out 4 trout but they were frozen in one solid mass and would have taken forever so, the other choice was 60z salmon fillets and that was much better. They were individually frozen (when I have time and not feeling lazy I try to freeze in this way. It makes thawing much speedier). I felt like a pie of sorts but I didn’t want to have to cook potatoes or make a pastry crust? I look forward to my time in the kitchen every evening and sometimes I want to be consumed by the process entirely, but other times, like last night, I just want to be there and the cooking to happen with little effort. This was certainly one of those dishes, but with gorgeous results. When my husband saw me mixing the spinach and salmon into the sauce he was a little scared that it would be one gooey mess of a dinner (he sort of told me so, “hmmm…will this make it onto your blog?”). Later, as he sat cupping his bowl of food, he apologized profusely in-between mouthfuls!
You will need: 4 6oz fresh salmon fillets, 1 1/2 to 2 lbs fresh spinach, 1 onion, 3 cloves garlic, 2 1/2 cups milk (whole or 2 %), 1/2 cup white cheddar cheese, 3 tbs unsalted butter, 2 1/2 tbs unbleached white flour, 1 tsp kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper.
Preheat oven to 350*
Wash spinach (do not dry as the clinging water will cook the spinach) and place in a pot (1 used a 3 qt pot and forced the pressed the spinach down with the lid). Add 1/4 cup of water, cover and cook for 5 minutes or so until the spinach is soft. Drain spinach in a colander to cool. Put the milk in a sauce pan big enough to hold the salmon and the liquid (I used the pot I cooked the spinach in – didn’t even wash it!). Add 1/2 tsp of salt and a couple of grinds of black pepper and place on medium heat. Add the fish.
When the milk comes to a simmer turn heat down and poach the fish gently for 6 minutes. Remove the salmon to a plate with a slotted spoon and reserve the milk.
Make sauce: Dice the onion and finely chop the garlic. Put saute pan (9″) on low to medium heat and add butter. Add the onion and garlic and saute for 5 to 6 minutes until soft. Add the rest of the butter (2 tbs) and melt. When melted, add flour and stir in and cook for 1 minute before slowly adding the warm fishy milk. When all milk has been added keep cooking and stirring until it thickens and flour has completely cooked into the sauce (about 8 minutes). Add grated cheese to sauce and turn off heat. Taste the sauce and add more salt or pepper if you think it needs it.
When cool enough to handle, squeeze excess water out of spinach, chop with a knife and swirl into sauce.
Break up fish into big chunks and stir gently into sauce. If your pan is oven-proof place in oven for 30 minutes OR transfer to a casserole.
When you remove it from oven it will have become a nice soft, but solid pie. I served this over penne pasta (Cook the pasta while the dish is in the oven).
We have a varied house as far as palates are concerned but this dish was licked clean by everyone.!