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This post is part of a series of recipes sponsored by Go Wild! BC Salmon. You can find this recipe and more, along with information about British Columbia’s incredible wild salmon fisheries. All opinions are my own.
I have something of a giddy and over-the-top crush on Québécois food. Sure, we all love poutine (oh, poutine…) but just how familiar are you with the awesome food of La Belle Province? Oh, and by “La Belle Province” I mean Quebec, and not the fast-food restaurant chain of the same name – though that bit of linguistic overlap is particularly apropos here. Quebec has a long, fascinating culinary history that’s reflected by its diverse contemporary food culture, but there’s a special connection to the wonderfully weird and adventurously greasy foods that have emerged from Quebec’s many greasy spoon snack bars, aka les Casse-Croûtes.
I’m admittedly rather fascinated by these dishes, though I think I come by this interest honestly enough. My parents grew up in Montreal but moved the prairies before I was born – the perfect recipe for a slightly romanticized and catching form of nostalgia, at least as far as food is concerned. Unsurprisingly, this meant that we grew up accustomed to a number of Eastern Canadian specialties, including a handful that always held that coveted ‘treat’ status in our minds. And while I (like every child) knew a treat when I was on the receiving end, it wasn’t until I was much older that I began to realize that my friends had no idea what these foods were. Nobody I knew ate tourtière at Christmas, but I assumed in my youth that this was more of a holiday thing than an Eastern thing. While I eventually figured that one out for myself, it was two other foods that clued me in to the ‘otherness’ of my family’s food in the land of wheat fields and pickup trucks: Jos. Louis, and hot dog buns.
Jos. Louis snack cakes (pronounced in the anglo-style as ‘Joe Louie’ and pluralized to sounds like ‘Joe Louies’) are puck-shaped, packaged red velvet cake with a cream filling and a chocolaty shell. Sounds pretty basic, right? Well when I was a kid, they were insanely hard to find, and so when we’d manage to acquire a box it was cause for celebration. You know, because they were amazing. I mean, they probably still are amazing, but I haven’t had one in ages because I’m not 11, I need to exercise restraint, and I’m not prepared for the fallout that will inevitably come with my kids trying them. The thing is, when I was a kid, nobody else even knew what they were. Worse still, everyone – EVERYONE – figured they were just some like a wagon wheel. A WAGON WHEEL. (You need to picture me sneering when you read that last bit). For the uninitiated, wagon wheels are (inferior) snack cakes that look very much the same, but are typically filled with some kind of spray-foam-like marshmallow substance sandwiched between two biscuits with all of the charm (and flavour) of particle board. Comparing them to my beloved Jos. Louis’ was basically sacrilege. Fortunately, Québécois French has a whoooooole bunch of words dealing with that very subject, but I try to keep the language tame ’round these parts. Over time, Jos. Louis’ became more common in the West and I was able to communicate the difference to my friends with a little more clarity and a lot less colourful language. But sadly, I’m still fighting the good fight when it comes to my second beloved Québécois food itme: the hot center-cut hot dog bun.
Center-cut, bread-y sided hot dog buns. Doesn’t sound too exciting, does it? Well it fills my heart with joy (and possibly cholesterol), but we’ll get the what and the why in a moment. First, let’s keep unraveling the thread of my culinary obsessions. By the time I was in my twenties I was happily aware of my own little Québécois foods, and more than happy to get on a soapbox for them in the flat and frozen prairies. But it wasn’t until I spent two years living in Montreal myself that I came to truly appreciate Quebec’s snacks, diners, and simple meals. At the risk of falling into the trap of ‘you had to be there’ food writing, it’s tough to get at what exactly makes a steamed wiener or a stacked smoked meat sandwich or a fresh Montreal-style bagel so damned good. You just sit down (or stand up if you’re getting a hot dog), dive in, and you just… know. I guess the best way I can put it is to say that it’s unabashedly all about the flavour. Forget the pretenses of decor, marketing, or trendy haute-cuisine trappings – it’s just about best recipe in its simplest and most addictive form. New York and Montreal are constantly arguing about who makes the best bagels, but honestly, both cities need to put aside their differences and take a stance against the convenience-before-quality plastic-bagged scourge that passes for a bagel elsewhere on the continent. Round bread does not a bagel make. Things changed for me the first time I say down in a Montreal bagel shop. I watched a worker deftly maneuver a massive wooden board resembling some kind of Brobdingnagian tongue depressor into the fiery maw of the wood burning oven. I saw him expertly scooping dozens of sesame seed bagels, pulling them from the oven and tossing them off of the paddle and into a long wooden bin. It’s the kind of work that’s mesmerizing in its perfect simplicity. Before the bagel even makes it to your plate, you’ve become truly appreciative of the process. When you take that first bite – well, then you’re in love. And for the record, lest I sound overly romantic about the process, it’s definitely still about the flavour. Those pre-packaged, over-priced bagel-shaped-objects you find in the grocery stores? They straight-up can’t compare.
Now let’s be honest – the world is full of food experiences like that. Anywhere you go, you’re likely to find some amazing bit of cuisine that just blows you out of the water and ruins you for anything else. The weird thing about Quebec though, is that a bunch of the foods that fit this bill are really common, every-day sorts of foods. Scalding maple syrup poured onto the snow may not be an everyday thing (yes, my non-Canadian, non-Vermont-based readers, that is a real thing), but hot dogs, sandwiches, fries, and rotisserie chicken are, and in Quebec they’re AMAZING. I think it has something to do with the simple yet effective creative push to mash good things together. Fries are good. So is gravy. How about cheese curds? Mash that all together and you’ve got poutine. Oh, poutine! And you can export these ideas just fine, but if you don’t pay attention to what makes it good (for poutine, it’s thick fries, great gravy, and fresh cheese curds), then it will falter, a grim spectre of its true potential. Oh, poutine. Casse-croûtes, like greasy spoons, food carts, and street vendors around the world, are inherently democratic places. A good recipe – and a slavish attention to making sure that it’s followed properly – is the only real key to success. After all, there’s someone just down the street looking to beat you at this game, and customers will line up out their door if s/he can do it better than you. That’s not to say that there’s no wiggle room or innovation; in fact, the opposite is true. If you can put a unique twist on a recipe it might just take off and become a whole new thing all on its own. This very process is what has happened with the guédille. The guédille is, essentially, a hot dog bun filled with a bunch of stuff that is not a hot dog. In general, this takes the form of a mayonnaise-dressed salad (chicken, egg, coleslaw, etc.), either alone or with something else. In Baie-du-Febvre they grill the bun and fill it with club-sandwich-style fillings. In Gaspésie they fill it with coleslaw and French fries, because Gaspésie is not messing around. But one thing unites all the recipes, and that’s the right kind of hot dog bun.
So what’s so special about this mythical hot dog bun, you ask? It’s simple really – they’re sliced from the top, not the sides, and they’re baked like tray buns, so that when they’re pulled apart they leave soft, white bread ‘faces’ on the side. If we left it there, the difference would be negligible, but here’s the thing: those bread faces can be buttered and fried like a grilled cheese. If you can’t understand why a hot dog (or guedille) with grilled-cheese-style bread would be a great thing then you’d better find a pack of top-loading buns and come on over. I’m going to sit you down, put on some Harmonium, and we’re going to do it up right. A guedille can come in a grilled (well, fried, but grilled sounds nicer) or plain bun, and I know that tradition is tradition, but I can’t fathom why you WOULDN’T want to go with the grilled version. The fillings taste that much better enveloped in buttery, crispy, perfectly browned (and just a little greasy) bread.
Sadly, top-loading hot dog buns remain elusive West of Ontario. This means that those of us in the bread-sided top-loading bun camp are forced to proselytize to anyone willing to listen in hopes that one day bakeries will catch on. We’re also forced to smuggle buns out of Quebec, thank you very much. I once had to explain to a somewhat confused airport security agent in Montreal why my carry-on was literally filled with bags of hot dog buns. No, I’m not making that up. But fret not, my adventurous food-loving friends! I’m here to help.
If you’re in the eastern part of Canada and you just didn’t know about this stuff, well, you’re welcome. And thanks to the wonderful and popular lobster roll (which is basically another kind of guedille) you can probably find top-loading buns with ease in New England, and possibly elsewhere along the Atlantic coast. I don’t know yet, but if you do, leave a comment. As for everyone else, I’m going to share my hot dog bun life hack with you in the Recipe Notes below.
A Mari Usque Ad Mare
From sea to sea – d’un océan à l’autre. That’s Canada’s motto. We’re pretty big, you see. And this is my sea-to-sea guedille recipe. It’s packed with as much Quebec spirit as I can get in there, but it’s also got my Pacific heart all over it. Wild Keta (Chum) Salmon, homemade mayonnaise with local eggs (and canola, because you never really leave the prairies), tangy coleslaw with savoy cabbage grown only a few kilometers from my house – even the chips are local! It’s my love letter from the West, and I hope it finds some fans Back East.
This is easy stuff. Even if you make the mayo from scratch, these don’t take more than 45 minutes to make, start to finish. The recipe also scales up or down incredibly easily, making this recipe excellent for one person or a whole gang.
I used Keta (Chum) salmon for this recipe. It’s terribly under-appreciated, but that also means that it’s ridiculously affordable. If you can find it, I do encourage you to give it a try. That being said, any of the wonderful wild salmon species found here on the Pacific coast would be wonderful, including Coho, Sockeye, Pink, and others. For what it’s worth, the lower oil content in Keta makes it a little milder tasting, so it’s a nice variety to go with if you’re on the fence about fishy flavours.
As I mentioned (rather vociferously) above, you COULD make these with any kind of hot dog bun, but you’ll do yourself a big favour if you find top-cut buns with breaded sides (sort of like tray buns). Because these are so ridiculously hard to find outside of the Eastern parts of Canada and the USA, you may need a work-around. After quite a bit of trial and error, I’ve found the best approach is to use simple the uncut hot-dog buns that are frequently found with in-house packaging at local grocery stores and bakeries. They tend to resemble submarine sandwich buns, albeit smaller and usually a bit softer. Because they’re uncut, you can slice them from the top-down yourself, and you can (if necessary) trim off a bit of the sides to expose more of the white bready portion. Once you’ve done that, they’re simply treated like a grilled cheese: butter the sides, heat up a skillet on the stove with a pat of butter, then (Working in batches), grill the sides until they’re golden brown.
If you’re not interested in making your own mayonnaise, it’s no big deal; the recipe is still awesome with store-bought. That being said, if you’ve got an immersion blender, homemade mayo is equal parts incredible and easy.
You’ll find a surprising number of mayo recipes out there on the interwebs. If you’re used to store-bought mayo you’ll probably find this version a little bolder and richer thanks to the extra egg yolk. It’s also tangier thanks to the added white wine vinegar. Both of those features are actually quite important to Japanese mayo, which is a big part of the reason that I like it so much. In fact, I would recommend Japanese mayo over Western if you’re using store-bought here, but that’s probably a matter of personal taste.
One of these days I might write up a little how-to piece on making mayo, but with an immersion blender the entire process is pretty fool-proof. Simple combine the egg yolks, lemon juice, vinegar, and Dijon mustard in a container that will just accommodate the head of an immersion blender (most blenders come with a container like this). Place the blender in the egg mixture and turn it on, then slowly start to drizzle in the oil, a little at a time. If the oil starts to pool on the top of the mayo, stop pouring and move the immersion blender up and down in order to get everything combined. Stop mixing once all of the oil has been incorporated. Add salt to taste and refrigerate. Bam, mayo.
“But wait!” I hear you ask, “What about the raw eggs?” Yes, scratch mayo is made with raw egg yolks (and in some recipes, raw whites). I talk about this a little bit more in another recent recipe, but I’ll give the bullet points here. First of all, properly handled eggs are very unlikely to be contaminated with Salmonella (about 1/20,000 eggs). Second, the risk increases if your mayo is improperly stored (keep it in the fridge) or under-acidified. Salmonella doesn’t survive very well at a lower (acidic) pH, which is why mustard is such an important ingredient in mayo. Mustard is mostly vinegar, and the added vinegar helps to drop the pH and make the mayo less hospitable to the growth of nasty bacteria. In this particular recipe you’re even better off thanks to the added white wine vinegar, which lowers the pH even further. I should note however that while this will help prevent Salmonella from growing and replicating, it won’t do you as much good if you use eggs that have already been badly contaminated with Salmonella, as the toxins that cause food poisoning will already be present. Because of this, you should use only fresh, properly handled and stored eggs. If you’re still concerned or you want to store your mayo longer, you can use pasteurized eggs or egg yolks.
No ingredient pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
No pantry pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
Note: Butter is only used to toast fry the sides of the buns. Omitting this step or using a butter substitute makes this meal dairy-free as well. But don’t omit the step, because it’s the best.
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A West-coast take on a Québécois classic, this amazing sandwich features homemade salmon salad and scratch coleslaw in a grilled bun.
- 650 g Keta (Chum) Salmon fillet
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise homemade (see below) or storebought
- salt to taste
- 8 hot dog buns preferably top-cut or uncut - see note
- 3 tbsp butter (approximate - have some on hand to butter the buns)
- 1/4 tsp sweet paprika
- 1/4 small red onion diced
- 8 lemon wedges
- 450 g cabbage (preferably savoy cabbage) very thinly sliced
- 1 large carrot (~175 g) shredded
- 1 stalk celery plus or minus any tender leaves
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise homemade (see below) or storebought
- 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
- 1/4 tsp salt or to taste
- 3 large egg yolks
- 3/4 cup canola oil or grapeseed oil
- 1 tbsp lemon juice freshly squeezed
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- salt to taste
Combine the egg yolks, lemon juice, vinegar, and Dijon mustard in a container that will just fit the head of an immersion blender (most blenders come with one of these).
Place the blender in the egg mixture and turn it on. Slowly start to drizzle in the oil, a little at a time. If the oil starts to pool on the top of the mayo, stop pouring and move the immersion blender up and down in order to get everything combined. Stop mixing once all of the oil has been incorporated. Add salt to taste and refrigerate.
Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).
Place the salmon fillet(s) on a baking sheet. Remove any pin bones from the salmon fillet. Skin-on salmon is easiest to use here, but if you use skinless fillets you may want to lay down a sheet of parchment paper beneath them.
Cover the salmon fillets with about 1/3 cup of mayonnaise. You may find that you need a little bit less than this amount, but try not to leave thing spots.
Bake the salmon for about 20-25 minutes, or until the salmon is just cooked through but still moist in the center.
Let the cooked salmon cool somewhat, then break the salmon into pieces, mixing them with the cooked mayonnaise and sweet paprika as you work. I find it easiest to do this by using a spatula to remove portions of the fillet, then transferring these to a large bowl and breaking them apart by hand. Season with salt and a little pepper to taste, then set the finished salmon aside.
Combine all of the coleslaw ingredients in a large bowl and mix by hand until well-combined. Salt to taste and set aside.
If the sides of the buns are brown (i.e. the crust of the bun rather than the soft interior), use a bread knife to cut away slice on each side to expose a flat breaded area. Cut an opening down the top/center of the buns as well, but take care not to slice all the way through the bun.
Butter the sides of the buns. Heat a skillet on the stove top over medium and add a pat of butter to the pan. Working in batches, toast the sides of the buns (like a grilled cheese) until golden brown.
Fill the buns with salmon, coleslaw, and a little red onion. Dust with a little more sweet paprika if you like. Serve with lemon wedges. Serve right away, preferably with chips or fresh fries.
Mayonnaise - These instructions cover the simplest method for making mayonnaise at home using an immersion blender. If you've made mayonnaise using other methods (e.g. hand-whisking), this recipe should work fine. If you're not making your own mayo, feel free to skip right to preparing the salmon.
Buns - If you live in Eastern Canada or New England, there's a decent chance you can find top-loading hot dog buns with breaded sides. If so, use them. If you can't find them and you want to fry the buns (which I wholeheartedly recommend), look for tray-style hot dog buns that haven't been cut. The sides can be trimmed to cut bread 'faces,' and you can cut them through the top/center yourself. I find that bakeries (including grocery store bakeries) often carry these as an in-house product.