One of the big enigmas of modern Southern cookery is why fresh salmon, now so readily available even in supermarkets, has never gained the popularity of flounder, snapper, bass, and catfish in Southern homes or restaurants. Canned salmon, on the other hand, has been a staple of the Southern kitchen as long as I can remember, used from Virginia to Tennessee to Arkansas to make all sorts of dips, spreads, loaves, croquettes, mousses, and, to be sure, exotic molded salads. Is it best to use fresh, flaked, cooked salmon in this particular salad? Not really. As my mother says, “I defy anybody to notice any difference between fresh and canned salmon in molded salads.”
In a small saucepan, soften the gelatin in the water for 5 minutes, then place over low heat, stirring till the gelatin is dissolved. Remove from the heat and let cool.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the mayonnaise, half-and-half, lemon juice, mustard, dill, and black pepper and stir till well blended. Add the dissolved gelatin to the mixture and stir till well blended and smooth. Add the salmon, celery, bell pepper, and onion and stir till well blended. Scrape the mixture into a greased 8-cup ring or fish-shaped salad mold, cover with plastic wrap, and chill till firm, at least 3 hours.
Serve the salad in slices on top the lettuce leaves.
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