December 1, 2020 by Amethyst Ganaway
A really good casserole is one of the most comforting meals anyone can make. There are a million and one ways to make them, and they don’t take much work or time to go from the oven to the dinner table. Almost any combination of ingredients can be tossed into a dish and cooked off, but a good casserole requires flavors that all complement each other, and a sturdy base to be built from.
My grandma wasn’t a huge casserole person, but she did make one that she passed on to me that I still crave: salmon or tuna and spinach or broccoli with lots of gooey cheese. Traditionally, the base for a casserole is some sort of noodle (my grandma always uses egg noodles), but any starchy component works. Here, fonio steals the show. First it’s cooked and slightly baked to provide a good foundation for the mix of salmon and fresh spinach. Fonio soaks up all the flavors of the cheesy mix on the bottom of the dish, and appears again as a crunchy, melted cheese topper — similar to bread crumbs or toasted noodles. Everything is mixed up in one bowl and then baked off in one dish, and in under an hour you have a filling meal that requires minimal cleanup!
To make this recipe even more simple, I use canned salmon. It’s an inexpensive, tasty, and mess free alternative to cooking your own. But feel free to use fresh salmon, and follow the simple cooking instructions included here, in Chef Pierre Thiam’s recipe.
- Cooking spray or small amount of oil
- 1 cup Yolélé fonio, cooked according to package and cooled
- 4 cups cooked salmon, OR 2 fifteen-ounce cans of cooked salmon
- 1 pound fresh spinach, OR thawed out frozen spinach
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, ½ cup reserved
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 01 .
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Coat a small (2-3 quart) oven safe casserole or baking dish with cooking spray or oil, and fill with 3/4 cup of the cooked fonio. Firmly press down the fonio with your hands or a spatula, making sure to completely cover the bottom of the dish with an even layer. Set aside the rest of the cooked fonio for later use. Once the bottom of the dish is covered, place it in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the top is crusty, firm, and slightly toasted. When it’s ready, remove from the oven and set aside until you’re ready to compose your casserole, but leave the oven on.
- 02 .
While the fonio is baking, prepare your filling. If you are using fresh salmon, cook it as you’d like until the fish is cooked through (145°F) and flaky, about 10 minutes depending on the thickness of your fillets. If you are using fresh spinach, slightly sauté it for about 2-3 minutes until it is just barely wilted and still bright green, and then drain it of any excess liquid. If you are using canned salmon and frozen spinach, make sure both are drained well before using them.
- 03 .
In a large bowl, combine the salmon, spinach, heavy cream, 1 ½ cups of the shredded cheese, salt and pepper to your taste, and beaten egg, mixing until well incorporated. In a separate bowl, mix together the remaining cheese and the remaining cup of cooked fonio and set aside.
- 04 .
Carefully remove the baking dish from the oven, add the salmon filling in an even layer, and finish by evenly spreading the fonio and cheese topping across the casserole.
- 05 .
Carefully, place the dish back into the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the casserole when it’s ready, and let cool for at least 5-10 minutes before cutting into it. Serve and Enjoy!