You know those holiday recipes that must be made or else there will be a family-wide mutiny? This parsley and pecan crusted salmon ball is one of those recipes. When I was growing up, this was on the appetizer table at Christmas every year without fail. It had to be. I have no idea where the recipe originated–I always knew it to reside in a small black three-ring binder on a set of bookshelves in the family room of my childhood home in Maryland. Now, a copy of the recipe resides in a larger and almost bulging binder in my kitchen here in Texas. It’s not an Italian recipe, but it was part of our all-fish Christmas Eve dinner–an Italian tradition. Even though this appetizer isn’t Italian, I’m breaking my “all Italian recipes” rule because I can’t keep a fantastic recipe like this to myself–I have this blog to share recipes with others, which is what I love most about my little corner of the Internet. Plus, the Christmas season means it’s also cocktail party season, and there’s nothing better than a cocktail party with fabulous appetizers to accompany all those festive drinks.
I made this for our appetizer on Thanksgiving and it was a hit, which was no surprise. I have never known this appetizer to be unpopular in all the years I’ve made it. It’s packed with flavor from the fresh onion and spicy horseradish which is tempered by the cool cream cheese. The salmon is flaky tender and adds a light pink hue to the cream cheese mixture. The parsley adds a pop of color while the pecans add a delightful crunchy contrast to the luscious spread. An added bonus is that this parsley and pecan crusted salmon ball needs to be made a day or two in advance for the flavors to develop and the texture to be firm enough to shape. The pecan-parsley mixture used to coat the salmon ball can also be chopped ahead of time and refrigerated in a sealed container until it’s ready to use. Three cheers for make-ahead appetizers! Once you are ready to set out your holiday noshes and nibbles, all you have to do is form the salmon ball and place it on your favorite festive platter with some crackers and watch it disappear.
For the salmon mixture
- 3 5 oz. cans pink salmon, drained (discard skin and bones if present)
- 1 8 oz. block (full fat) cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- ¼ cup coarsely grated yellow onion
- 1–2 Tablespoons prepared horseradish
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon fine grain salt
For the parsley-pecan mixture
- ¾ cup finely minced fresh, Italian flat-leaf parsley
- ¾ cup unsalted, finely chopped pecans
- Flake the salmon into a mixing bowl and set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or using a hand mixer), beat the cream cheese over medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer the cream cheese into the bowl with the salmon and add in the grated onion, horseradish, lemon juice, and salt. Use a rubber spatula to mix the ingredients together until they are evenly incorporated. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap (or transfer to an airtight container) and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
To form the salmon ball
- Place the minced parsley and pecans in a shallow dish (such as a pie plate) and mix thoroughly with a fork to evenly distribute the ingredients.
- Using a rubber spatula, transfer the salmon mixture into the parsley-pecan mixture and use your hands to form it into a ball while turning it to coat it with the parsley-pecan mixture until the entire salmon ball is coated. Transfer the salmon ball to a platter and serve with unsalted, unseasoned crackers (I like to use water crackers).