When I told my boyfriend we were making one of William Faulkner’s favorite recipes, he prepared for a liquid lunch. “Did Faulkner even eat?” he asked. “I assumed he just poured bourbon into a bowl.”
Faulkner’s cocktails of choice – a mint julep or a hot toddy – were published by Faulkner’s niece in The New Great American Writers Cookbook, and the hushed ritual that accompanied their serving only enhanced his reputation as a man who loved – nay, respected - his liquor:
“Pappy alone decided when a Hot Toddy was needed, and he administered it to his patient with the best bedside manner of a country doctor. … Pappy always made a small ceremony out of serving his Hot Toddy, bringing it upstairs on a silver tray and admonishing his patient to drink it quickly, before it cooled off. It never failed.”
But he must have eaten something – man cannot live on mint juleps alone. Then I came upon this article in a 2008 issue of Gourmet, in which the curator of Faulkner’s home in Mississippi discloses the writer’s favorite meal: salmon croquettes, made straight from the recipe on the back of the salmon tin.
One of the great things about these salmon croquettes is their adaptability. Serve mini versions on a silver platter and you can have a fancy cocktail party. But serve them on a paper plate on your front porch, and you’ll be pretty close to Yoknapatawpha County.
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Faulkner made his croquettes with tinned salmon, and that’s definitely the way to go if you’re short on time – if, I don’t know, you’re busy penning canonical works of literature or something. But using fresh salmon and baking it beforehand takes very little effort and makes a huge difference in taste and consistency. It might not have been Faulkner’s style, but I think he’s the kind of guy who would have appreciated a freshly caught fish.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb. boneless salmon fillet
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ cups dried bread crumbs
1 ½ tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
3 tablespoons fresh minced dill
1/3 cup minced chives
1 (very) small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 eggs, beaten
Juice of ½ lemon
3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon flour
1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place salmon fillet on the foil, skin side down, and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until cooked through and easily flaked. Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes, or until comfortable to handle.
2. Discard salmon skin and place fillet in a large bowl. Flake into small pieces. Add bread crumbs, Old Bay, dill, chives, onion, eggs, and lemon juice. Stir ingredients until just combined and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. Form salmon mixture into 8 to 10 patties (They should be about the size of your palm, and about an inch thick). Transfer onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate at least 1 hour (or overnight).
4. Add canola oil to a skillet and heat until shimmering. Sprinkle patties lightly with flour on both sides. Gently transfer half of the patties to skillet and cook, flipping once with the spatula, until golden brown, about 5 minutes total. Transfer croquettes to a paper towel–lined plate and repeat with remaining patties.