The secret ingredients I unwrapped were a big bag of egg noodles, and a couple cans of smoked salmon. What did I decide to make? Smoked salmon casserole! A quick trip to the store and about $20 later, I was in the kitchen working on this. I had to buy asparagus, baby corn, heavy cream, fontina cheese, capers, and those fried onion crispy thingys you always see in green bean casseroles. I don't know how much the egg noodles and smoked salmon were, but I'm guessing your final bill for this one will be somewhere between $25 and $28. Yeah, a little more pricey than I tend to aim but oh so worth it. I surprised myself with this one.
I'd also like to thank my good friend Kali for hanging out to wrangle cats and help keep the sauce from burning.
1 bunch fresh asparagus, cut into about 1" pieces*
2 6.5 oz cans smoked salmon (save the liquid)**
1 12 oz bag wide egg noodles
half of a 4 oz jar of capers
1 can baby corn (cut into about 1" pieces)***
1/2 lb Fontina cheese, sliced
About 4 oz French's French Fried Onions
For the sauce:
2 Tbsp butter
2-3 Tbsp flour
1/2 pint heavy whipping cream
5 large cloves of garlic, put through garlic press
dash of allspice
1 Tbsp mustard seeds
1 Tbsp parsley flakes
1/2 Tbsp dry tyme
Salt and pepper to taste
bowl of ice water
large mixing bowl
1 very large or 2 medium sized baking dishes****
Preheat oven to 350°.
Fill the large pot with salted water and bring to a boil over high heat. When the water is boiling, add asparagus for about 30 seconds. Remove asparagus from hot water and place in the bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. When cool, drain and remove ice. Add noodles to the pot and cook according to directions on the packaging.
Melt the butter in the sauce pan over low heat. Once melted, add flour and mix well. Allow to cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Be careful not to let it burn. Add cream and liquid from the salmon and mix until combined. If the mixture begins to thicken too much, add milk to dilute it. Add garlic, herbs and seasonings to the sauce. If the sauce continues to thicken too much, just add more milk until it reaches your desired consistency. Salt and pepper to taste. (Take it a little easy on the salt if you're also using capers since they're pretty salty.)
In a large bowl, combine cooked drained noodles, asparagus, salmon, capers, baby corn and sauce. Mix until everything is coated evenly and transfer into baking dish(es). Top with sliced fontina cheese and onion crispy thingys. Bake in 350° oven for about 10 minutes. (Really, you're just looking to melt the cheese and brown the onions.) Allow to cool at least 5-10 minutes before eating.
What would I do differently next time? I think I might use half-and-half instead of heavy cream. Might solve the problem of the sauce thickening too much. I'd also skip the part where I cooked the asparagus before the noodles. When the pasta's time is up, I'd just throw the asparagus in with it and let it go for about 30 seconds before draining the whole pot. This would also eliminate the hassle of the ice bath which - in retrospect - wasn't terribly necessary.
If you don't have a helper to watch the sauce while you deal with other things, you'll probably be just fine waiting to start the sauce until the asparagus and noodles are cooked and drained. The sauce doesn't take long at all to come together, and since it's all going into the oven anyway, you really don't have to worry about the noodles getting cold. (Though might want to toss them with a little olive oil to keep them from sticking together if you do it this way.)
Perhaps I'll try something a little lighter for the next installment. Then again, I guess that depends on what the mystery ingredient(s) is/are.
"Exploration No. 6" by The Hybiscus Journals
* Bend each stalk of asparagus until it breaks. Get rid of the bottom part, that's tough and woody. The top part is what you want to eat. DO NOT USE CANNED ASPARAGUS!!! That stuff's nasty. If that's all your store has, just leave it out. Or maybe try broccoli or fresh green beans.
** Break the salmon up with a fork
*** They do sell cans of pre-cut baby corn. Feel free to use that and save yourself some knife work. I do.
**** I used a baking dish and a small cake pan since it wouldn't all fit into one dish.
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