Reading about William Faulkner and Rowan Oak, his home in Oxford, Mississippi, I came across several references to what was said to be his favorite dish; Salmon Croquettes made from a recipe on the back of the can.
It had been years since I last thought of Salmon Croquettes, longer since I ate one. It is an old fashioned concept, popular mid-century, when Faulkner was still writing and a time when canned goods had become widely available to most Americans but fresh seafood had not. Canned tuna and salmon were staples in many southern kitchens and recipes for tuna casseroles and salmon croquettes were popular with homemakers and widely shared in local cookbooks from that era.
It was Salmon Croquettes that I remember my midcentury family eating with some regularity. I never really trusted the creaminess of a Tuna Casserole, or any mixture of uncertain white ingredients. Salmon Croquettes were more straightforward. Not that I knew what was in them at the time, but they were shaped like hamburgers and tasted like what they purported to be, fish.
And then there were the bones. Canned salmon contained tiny circular bones that looked like beads or tiny puka shells. What’s more we were encouraged to eat them if we liked, unlike any other bone. They were easily chewed and were dense with calcium. I found them uniquely intriguing and loved finding one or more hidden inside my Salmon Croquette.
Drawn by memory or tradition, and my childish fascination with those bones, I tried to recreate the charm of eating Salmon Croquettes a time or two after I was married. I followed the recipe Aunt Hen gave me and I remember that they turned out fine. Somehow though, the charm was lost or the habit didn’t stick. Whatever the reason, Salmon Croquettes fell out of my menu rotations for decades.
Lately, though, I have read of croquettes several times in various contexts. The word seems to have come back into fashion or at least pulls at a comforting nostalgic chord with those of us who remember those mid-century dishes from our childhood. Spurred on by the rumor that Salmon Croquettes were a favorite of Faulkner, a true Southern Literary Giant, I was inspired to make them again.
This time, instead of using canned salmon I used leftover salmon, something we often have on hand after baking or grilling a Simple Salmon fillet. What it lacked in intriguing bits of bone it made up for in it’s firmer texture. I am a bit picky about the ingredients so after looking over several recipes I finally decided to adapt something of my own that is a little like Crab Cakes and a little like my memories of Betty Crocker. I feel sure this recipe would work well with canned salmon too, though the quantities would need to be adjusted according to the size of the can.