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A Recipe for Photogenic Smoked Salmon Pies and Other Joys of Being a Writer

Updated on March 23, 2016

The Story of the Good-Looking Fish Pies

I asked my roommate, "Would you help me pick out the three most photogenic fish pies?"

Hmmm, now that's kind of an odd thing to ask, one might say. It's an example of one of the tiny but enjoyable ways writing has changed my life.

I wasn't thinking about creating a recipe or about writing an article when I picked up the frozen salmon filets at the grocery store. I was thinking about the apple-wood smoked sea salt I'd just picked up on special the week before. I was thinking about the sustainability of the fishery versus the fantastic price-per-ounce value of the package. I was thinking how a soak overnight in some marinade with liquid smoke, low sodium soy sauce, fresh garlic, ginger and a squeeze of lemon would be just the thing to really get the flavors to penetrate the fish. I wasn't even considering writing anything on any of those subjects but that little columnist was sitting in the back of my head typing wildly. The rest of me was deciding how to make the best culinary use of mineral crystals condensed from seawater with smoke, utterly oblivious to the silent clicking of an imaginary keyboard.

As the next day progressed and the two lovely salmon filets sat in my refrigerator soaking up flavors I developed a craving for some crumbly pie crust. I was feeling under the weather that day and not up to making a bunch of different things so I decided to combine the two cravings into a single dish. I also considered the fact that two salmon filets won't go very far with four diners.

Cooking is a bit of a free-form art for me. I have a fairly decent knowledge of food science and a good memory for flavors. I take those two elements and use them to decide which things I have on hand will taste good together and which can be combined without creating a culinary disaster or disgusting results. In other words, I went into my kitchen only knowing I was going to make some kind of pie crust with salmon on it or in it and winged it.

It became the recipe below and we devoured all twelve of the little pies it turned into, even the three most photogenic ones, which were not tremendously beautiful, anyway.

Three photogenic smoky salmon pies chosen by a ravenous roommate
Three photogenic smoky salmon pies chosen by a ravenous roommate | Source

Ingredients for Fishy, Smoky Deliciousness

Crust Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached, white all-purpose wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup salted butter, refrigerated
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cold water

Smoky Salmon and Cheese Filling:

  • 8oz salmon filets, boneless and skinless
  • 1 tablespoon liquid smoke
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice, preferably fresh squeezed
  • 1/2 teaspoon applewood smoked sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
  • 1/2 cup soft goat cheese
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese


  • 1/4 cup shaved parmesan, Romano, or Asiago cheese
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked sea salt
  • olive oil to lightly coat pine nuts

Method and Assembly

Making the Filling:

Cut the salmon filets into bite-sized pieces. Place them in a non-reactive container with the liquid smoke, low-sodium soy sauce, smoked sea salt, lemon juice, and ginger and mush it around a bit to make sure all of the salmon touches marinade. Cover and refrigerate, preferably overnight.

When the salmon has marinated to your satisfaction and you're ready to make the pies, melt a tablespoon of butter in a large frying pan or skillet over low heat and add the salmon, marinade and all plus two tablespoons of water, to the pan. Cook on low until the salmon is slightly underdone then remove from the heat. Remove the salmon from the pan, leaving the marinade and juices behind.

Add the cream cheese and goat cheese, stirring well and scraping the bottom of the pan to get all the flavor. Add the shredded cheddar cheese and stir it in. Add the eggs last and stir very well so the whole thing is very blended.

Getting the Crust Started:

Put the flour into a medium mixing bowl and stir in the 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Thinly slice the 3/4 cup butter with a sharp knife before adding it to the flour. You can cut the butter into the flour with the same knife a strong metal spoon. A food processor could also be used for this step. The idea is to get the butter mixed thoroughly into the flour before it all reaches room temperature. It should look sort of like sand by this point. Cover it and refrigerate it until you are ready to put the dough into the pan to bake.

When ready to put the crust dough into the pan, stir in half a cup of water. Use a serving spoon or disher to put twelve even portions of dough in the twelve sections of the twelve brownie pan or sixteen even portions if using a greased and floured standard-sized muffin pan then press the dough until it lines the hollow. Prick the bottom and sides of each with a fork to let air out of the crust in the baking process.

Assembly and Topping:

Scoop equal portions of the filling into each pie and top with grated Romano, Parmesan, or Asiago and pine nuts that have been lightly tossed in olive oil to encourage tasty browning. Bake at 350 degrees for about twenty to twenty-five minutes or until the crust is lightly browned.

How did your pies taste?

Cast your vote for Smoked Salmon Pies with Pine Nuts

The Pan I Used to Get Square Pies

Wilton 2105-0454 Brownie Bar Pan
Wilton 2105-0454 Brownie Bar Pan

If you'd like to make twelve little square pies like the ones pictured, you'll need a pan like this. However, the recipe works just as well to make 16 of them using regular-sized, round muffin or cupcake tins. I prefer the slightly more substantial size, but regular-sized or even mini-muffin sized pans might make a better size to make mini-pies to serve as party hors d'oeuvres.

Can you hear the pies calling?
Can you hear the pies calling?

Writing the Story of Food Improves the Cooking of Food

When I decided to write about my kitchen experiments some years back, I discovered an unforeseen benefit. Once upon a time, I invented new dishes in my kitchen, never to replicate them quite right again. When I started writing things down, that changed; writing also changed the way I look at everything I do.

Everything has a story. Sometimes those stories call out to be written; I tend to listen nowadays even if the calling comes from a decadent bit of fishy pastry.

I have to say writing has really improved my cooking. It has also become such a part of life that my roommates and other close friends now comply to strange requests such as sorting fish-based baked goods by their relative esthetic appeal without batting an eye.

Only one salmon pie has survived on this plate
Only one salmon pie has survived on this plate

© 2014 Kylyssa Shay

Have You Eaten Salmon Pies?

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    • Kylyssa profile image

      Kylyssa Shay 3 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA


      I've found that, over time, writing has given me new eyes to see the world through or at least a new set of glasses. From your writing, I think maybe it's done the same for you.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I enjoyed the title so much I had to read the article. Writing is a fascinating gig, isn't it? We learn so much. :)

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Brilliant! I like this recipe and the combination sounds tasty.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      salmon pies should look good with a white plate and nice background

    • Kylyssa profile image

      Kylyssa Shay 3 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      When I make the same type of pies with chicken, they are also quite nice. Heck, they'd probably be good with just about any meat and I've made them to rave reviews with avocados soaked overnight in liquid smoke and soy sauce added just before baking instead of the meat. Smoked salt and liquid smoke are two of my favorite ingredients.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      maybe i should try the chicken, fish are expensive, chicken cheaper, thanks for the recipe

    • paperfacets profile image

      Sherry Venegas 3 years ago from La Verne, CA

      I find that too many times I ignore an awesome topic to only kick myself after the whole project or event is over. Photo ops are gone and writing inspiration starts to deflate. It is very important to get the pics and if advise is needed you better get it before the subject is eaten.