I choose to call dish this a pot pie, because that is the meal I intended to create when I started cooking. I was pleasantly surprised to realize it also brings to mind both chicken and dumplings and fish chowder, two comforting meals I didn’t mind emulating. Hence the temporary naming conundrum I ran into, trying to decide the best way to accurately and attractively describe my dish. Compared to “baked chowder” or “salmon and dumplings”, pot pie just seemed to fit. A friend also suggested “fisherman’s pie”, which I like; ultimately, I decided to stick with my first instinct. So here it is: introducing my new favorite winter weekend meal, biscuit-topped salmon pot pie. With a mix of green vegetables, abundant fresh dill, beautiful wild salmon and an almost decadent biscuit topping, this is a recipe you’ll find yourself adding to the meal plan often. That has been the case in our house.
I’ve said it before– I am so lucky to live in an area with affordable, fresh wild salmon and other fish. I’m always looking for new ways to cook what’s readily available in the local market, and right now, that means salmon and steelhead. I have been experimenting a lot this winter with fish recipes, hoping to learn new techniques, and also preserve innate flavor and moistness. I got the idea for a salmon pot pie one night last month and thought it would be a great idea to see what I could create. I know I am not the first to make a pot pie with salmon, but I had never had one before, so I modeled the flavors after some of my favorite Scandinavian dishes– hence, the peas, red potatoes and dill. For the fish, I use king or coho salmon, which are quite rich and very flavorful; I’ve also tried steelhead with excellent results. I ask my fishmonger to choose a fillet closer to the tail, as those tend to be less bony, and have him remove the skin, which is the most challenging part to do at home. Some will offer to cut the fish into pieces for you, as well. I was skeptical at first about the need for potatoes with biscuits, but the proportion is small, and they really do add to both the flavor and texture of the final dish. As a bonus, the potatoes help to thicken the filling. I love the flavor of the drop biscuit topping: buttery and with a hint of fennel and tangy buttermilk, it complements the salmon and vegetables so nicely. I made the same filling and topped with a single 9″ pie crust, which was also delicious. If you’d like to do that, put your prepared filling into a 9″ pie plate and allow it to cool slightly, then roll out a pie crust and lay it over the top. Cut the excess crust from the edges and make a few vents in the center, then bake at 400 degrees for 35 mins.
Using the freshest fish available to you and a few familiar vegetables, with biscuit topping or a pastry crust, this salmon pot pie is an ideal winter/spring dinner. It manages to be both decadent and homey at once. A one-pot meal at its best, it’s flavorful and comforting, my new preferred way to cook salmon or steelhead to showcase them as the wonderful ingredients they are. I can’t think of a meal I’ve enjoyed more in recent weeks.
Biscuit-Topped Salmon Pot Pie (serves 4-6)
- 1 T. butter
- 1 T. olive oil
- 1 c. sliced leeks, cleaned well and sliced or chopped finely
- 2 stalks of celery, diced small
- 1 c. cubed red potatoes, diced small
- 1 T. flour
- kosher salt & pepper
- 1/4 tsp. dried fennel
- 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
- 1 – 1 1/2 c. chicken broth
- 1 c. cream
- 1 c. fresh or frozen peas
- 1 lb. salmon, arctic char or steelhead, skinned, deboned and cut into 2″ pieces
- 2-3 T. fresh dill
For the biscuit topping:
- 1 c. flour
- 1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
- pinch of dried fennel
- 4 T. cold butter, cut into small pieces
- 1/2 c. buttermilk
- 1/4 c. cream
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven, melt the butter with the olive oil over medium heat. Add the celery and leeks and cook for about 3 mins. Add the potatoes, stir, and cook for an additional 3 mins. Add the flour, a pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper, fennel and thyme; mix until the flour is no longer visible and cook for just a minute. Add the broth to the pan– 1 c. if you like a thicker filling, the larger amount if you prefer it more soupy– and cook for 10 mins. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for about 10 mins.
While the filling cools, make the biscuit dough. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and fennel. Use a fork, your fingers or a pastry cutter to work the cold butter into your dry ingredients until you have no pieces of butter larger than a pea. Add the buttermilk and cream and stir just until the dry ingredients are moistened and you have a sticky, lumpy mixture; do not overwork the dough.
Back to the filling: add the peas (fresh or frozen) and cream to the filling and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into a 9″ pie plate or 2 – 3 quart casserole or souffle dish; I like the latter when I’m using biscuit topping and a pie plate when I use pastry crust. Place the pieces of salmon in a single layer, overlapping slightly if necessary. Gently press the salmon down until it is covered in broth, and sprinkle fresh dill liberally over the top. Drop the biscuits around the top; I find that five around the outside and one in the middle works well when using a round souffle dish. It’s okay for the drop biscuits to touch, but they do bake up better with a bit of space around each one. Bake for 40 mins., until the biscuits are golden brown and cooked through. Serve immediately.
Leftover pot pie can be stored for 2-3 days in the refrigerator and is really good reheated for lunch or dinner.
Here’s the pastry crust version, fresh out of the oven: