Food and Drink

Still have frozen catch from last season? Cousin Tanya’s saltine salmon has dinner covered.

Cousin Tanya’s saltine salmon

Years ago I posted on my food blog about a surprise hit recipe my cousin Tanya came up with on the fly, just this time of year when we were trying to figure out something new to do with the last of our frozen salmon. Every spring, the recipe still gets clicks because it’s both easy and great.

Tanya used what she had on hand, a very Alaskan thing to do, tapping pantry staples of crackers, Dijon mustard and hot sauce. Crackers have been part of Alaska’s cooking since way back. You can find cracker crumbs in 100-year-old cake recipes and, in midcentury, crackers used in place of apples in pie. Tanya was inspired by a panko-crusted Dijon chicken dish she used to love 30 years ago at Simon & Seafort’s — it’s still on the menu! You can sub in panko or gluten-free panko in this recipe.

I got with Tanya recently and we tested the recipe and tweaked it so I could share it with a wider crowd. And then we served it to our family, just to be sure it still had the magic. They seemed pretty pleased. There is basically nothing hard about this recipe except, maybe, not overcooking the salmon. Feel free to try other crackers in place of saltines.

Cousin Tanya’s Saltine Salmon

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

Salt

3 pounds previously frozen salmon, cut into portions

1/3 cup butter, melted

2 cloves garlic, crushed

Zest and juice of half a lemon

4 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Tabasco sauce

About 20 saltines (half a sleeve), crushed

1 cup parmesan, preferably grated with a microplane grater

Pepper

Fresh chives and half a lemon to garnish

Method:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Dry the salmon well with paper towels and remove skin if desired. Salt it. In a wide, shallow bowl, combine melted butter with garlic, Dijon, butter, lemon juice, zest and, if desired, a few splashes of Tabasco. Stir till it coalesces into a thick, spreadable paste. In another wide, shallow bowl, combine crushed saltines, parmesan and a few cracks of pepper. Set up a work station, with salmon on a plate, the Dijon mixture, the cracker mixture and a parchment-covered sheet pan. Coat each piece of salmon in the Dijon mixture (you might want to use a pastry brush), then roll each portion in the crackers until well-coated. Place on the sheet pan. When you’ve crackered all the salmon, slide the fish into the oven. Check for thinnest pieces for doneness at 8 minutes. The thicker pieces will need a few minutes more. Serve with a sprinkling of chives and a splash of lemon.

Julia O'Malley

Anchorage-based Julia O'Malley is a former ADN reporter, columnist and editor. She received a James Beard national food writing award in 2018, and a collection of her work, "The Whale and the Cupcake: Stories of Subsistence, Longing, and Community in Alaska," was published in 2019. She's currently writer in residence at the Anchorage Museum.

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