Salmon Croquettes was an entrée that my mom loved to make once in a while, though I cannot recall her ever making them for my dad. He wasn’t one for much change on the dinner table. I believe the heyday of Salmon Croquettes began in the late ‘50s and remained so into the early ‘70s. Surprisingly, the 1916 Fredericksburg Home Kitchen Cook Book has a recipe submitted by Miss Julia Estill, the daughter of Judge Estill. I can remember Miss Estill well. She was a teacher here until 1941 and then served as an elementary school principal in La Feria, Texas. She returned to Fredericksburg in ‘51. She was also a writer, and folklorist and beloved by many. Obviously, she was quite active in the creation of the PTA’s first cookbook. Miss Estill’s groundbreaking recipe lasted through the 10th edition published in 1971, then vanished from all future ones. It was not a bad run, but croquettes, like a good meatloaf, sadly, no longer held much appeal.
As you probably know, salmon are at home in northern waters, so in those days, canned salmon was the only way most Americans who did not live near northern coasts could enjoy them. It would have been possible for our first settlers to have bought canned salmon well before 1900. This must have been what brought about Miss Estill’s Salmon Croquette recipe.
Salmon Croquettes are moist and flaky on the inside and wonderfully crunchy on the outside. A well-made croquette also has a distinctive shape—almost resembling that of a pear or a Texas Highway Department’s roadside cone. That my mom, or anyone else making these, took time to shape them is rather remarkable. Perhaps, in our faster-paced-lives, we no longer have such time to waste.
Croquettes, like so much else, supposedly originated in France about half a century after the first settlers arrived here. Of course, the first croquette was not made of salmon – they were created to use up leftovers. One chef given credit for them was named Monsieur Escoffier. With the help of another Frenchman, Philias Gilbert, they perfected the Salmon Croquette.
A croquette is a small cylinder of food consisting of a thick binder combined with a filling, which is breaded and deep-fried. Different sources suggest they be formed into a shape about the size of an egg. Typically served as a side dish when they were invented, in our house they were my mom’s main entree. Fish and crab cakes that were first eaten on the eastern coast of the U.S. for decades are essentially croquettes, but it was in the American South that salmon croquettes became most popular.
I wonder how many of those early Fredericksburg citizens made Mis Estill’s Salmon Croquettes. Were they stuck in their ways like my dad or did they eagerly jump off to try something new? Clearly someone felt the recipe worthy enough to keep it in the cookbook until 1971. I do have to marvel that my mom was so willing to try new things even after rearing five children, saving to send them through college, and then facing life as a widow after 36 years of marriage. It’s a good reminder – we must keep life interesting!
1-12 oz. can of salmon, drained and flaked
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup finely chopped celery
¼ cup finely chopped onions
½ tsp dried dill week
½ tsp garlic powder
1 cup breadcrumbs plus ¼ cup for coating
Olive (100% virgin) oil for frying.
In a medium bowl, mix salmon, eggs, celery, onion and garlic powder.
Divide and shape into about 8 small pear-shaped patties.
Dust with additional breadcrumbs.
Fry 8 to 10 minutes until golden brown in olive oil.
Drain on paper towels.
Serve with Mom’s Special Marinara.
By Mark Wieser