Wednesday September 11, 2013 | 06:47 AM

I’m not surprised that there’s no reference whatsoever in Wikipedia or other food sources for that funny little dish called Salmon Wiggle.   I have found references for it in old cookbooks,  blogposts and the like; but none of these sources cite how the dish originated.

Essentially it’s a 1950s preparation where just about  everything falls out of a can—maybe that’s how it got its “wiggle” nomenclature. But more precisely defined, salmon wiggle is usually made with canned salmon and canned or frozen peas, which are folded into a white sauce and served over toast or crackers. 

When we had a brief cold snap earlier this week I felt like having a simple, hearty dish for dinner.  I thumbed through my books for ideas and salmon wiggle hit the spot.

The recipe I used came from my recently acquired cookbook, Prize Winning Maine Recipes, which the original Boone’s had published.  I encountered this book on my first visit to the new Boone’s Fishouse, where chef and owner Harding Smith showed it to me;the book was given to hime from a friend  who found it in a shop in Freeport.  Had he known about it earlier, he admitted,  he might have referenced many of the recipes to include on his menu

It’s a great book filled with recipes like salmon wiggle and other such culinary time warps as Maine Codfish Cakes Supreme (with tomato sauce), Queen Victoria Johnny Cake and Grandma’s Jelly Pie, to name a few.  Search online and you'll most likely find an old copy somewhere.

The recipe that I offer here is listed in the book as Lobster Wiggle, but any fish like salmon or crabmeat can be substituted. 

Instead of using canned ingredients I opted for fresh salmon and frozen peas since the fresh ones are no longer available.  Poach the fish in  a fumet with some white wine, water, shallots, carrots and bay leaf ; after it's cooked put large chunks of it into the white sauce.

Salmon Wiggle

Adapted from Prize Winning Maine Recipes, Boone’s

Servings: 4

1 ¼ pounds salmon fillet, skin on

2 cups fresh or frozen peas

Fish fumet

White wine


1 carrot, sliced thin

1 shallot, chopped

Bay leaf

Salt and pepper

White Sauce

4 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons flour

2 cups whole milk, heated

Salt and pepper, to taste

Nutmeg, to taste 

Prepare the fish fumet  by mixing enough water and white wine (about half and half) in a sauté pan.  Add the aromatics, bring to the simmer and add the salmon.  Cook, covered, about 5 minutes until the fish flakes.  Remove and cut the fish into large pieces, removing the skin and set aside.

Meanwhile prepare the white sauce by melting the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Add the flour and stir with a whisk over medium heat until well combined; cook for about 2 minutes.  Gradually, off the heat, add some of the milk and stir until combined; add more milk, off the heat, stirring to combine.  Finally add the remaining milk over medium heat and stir until smooth and creamy. Let simmer for a few minutes.   If too thick add more milk.  Season with salt and pepper and a trace of grated nutmeg.

If the peas are frozen, cook until tender, drain and set aside. 

To assemble the wiggle, add the fish to the white sauce and add the drained peas.  Stir gently to combine.  Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.  Serve over toast or saltines.

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John Golden has written about food, dining and lifestyle subjects for Downeast magazine, the Boston Globe, Cottages and Gardens magazine, Gourmet magazine, Cuisine magazine, the New York Times and the New York Post.

In his highly opinionated blog, John reports on his experiences dining out all over Maine and his visits with food personalities, farmers and farmers’ markets throughout the state.

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