Friday, 14 October 2016

Thanksgiving Crispy Sriracha Almond Salmon Bake

We're not very fond of spending the whole day cooking a traditional turkey dinner in our house, so Thanksgiving always presents us with a creative challenge. This year, while being on maternity leave and pinching our pennies, I decided that - holiday be damned - I'd continue my challenge of using everything in the fridge and cupboard before buying any more groceries. I found a beautiful bag of wild pacific salmon burgers in the freezer, and knew that these would take centre stage, but also knew that I didn't want to use them as burgers.

The other key ingredients I rounded up for this delightful dish:

  • 1 box of organic baby spinach
  • 1 each, red and yellow bell pepper
  • 10 large white mushrooms
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 onions
  • 6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 jar of Kirkland brand organic tomato basil marinara sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of smokey BBQ sauce (I later added a third tbsp and 2 tsp of red chilli powder)
  • 3 tablespoons of Sriracha sauce
  • 1 cup of organic vegetable broth
I began, as I do with most of our dishes, by sautéing the onion, garlic and ginger in coconut oil and a teaspoon of salt, for about 40 minutes until completely soft and translucent (but not caramelized). I then added the full jar of organic marinara sauce, stirred in the Sriracha, BBQ sauce and organic vegetable broth, and let gently bubble away on the stove for about 20 minutes before adding in all of the vegetables. A quick taste test revealed that it needed a little bit of a kick, so I added one more tbsp of BBQ sauce and some red chilli powder, then I then let it all simmer together for about one hour. Remember that this was a holiday meal, so there was plenty of time to let it simmer and bring out all of the flavours. A 10 minute simmer would be just fine for a weeknight, even if not quite as rich and flavourful.

I had defrosted the salmon burgers (even though they said cook from frozen), and I chopped them and added them into the sauce for the last five minutes of simmering. I didn't want to overcook the fish, because there is nothing more unpleasant than rubbery seafood.

While the sauce was slowly filling up my house with the most incredible smells, I searched for an interesting alternative to a breadcrumb topping. I poured about one cup of almonds into the Vitamix and gently pulsed them, then added them to a bowl of crushed up President's Choice Sriracha potato chips (about 1 cup of potato chips) and about half a cup of crispy fried onions. I added just a teaspoon of olive oil so that the topping would brown in the oven.

I am not very good at tracking quantities (I should set an alarm or something to remind myself to take notes!), but there was probably somewhere between 4 - 6 cups of cooked elbow macaroni that I mixed in with the marinara sauce and vegetables. I poured it into a casserole pan and then pressed the almond topping onto the top, and popped it into the oven for about one hour (covered for half an hour and uncovered for the last half hour) at 400F.

It was an incredibly delicious Thanksgiving meal: a delightfully deep and nutty, yet crunchy topping to a smokey and spicy pasta. My husband topped his with more Sriracha and a garlic yoghurt sauce (which is called Chaka across Central Asia), and it was truly incredible. This recipe, fully of protein and hardy vegetables, is a keeper.

Do you have a turkey alternative you'd like to share?

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