Four Meals, One Way

When I was a kid, my mom started cooking all of our meals either by browning ground beef and onions or by making a white sauce (and in the case of hamburger stroganoff, she did one and then the other in the same pan). As a result, four of our mainstays—eggs a la goldenrod, creamed chipped beef over toast, creamed salmon over biscuits, and cheddar chowder—all started the exact same way.

This week, I decided I’d make one of these (creamed salmon over biscuits) and post the recipe, complete with photos and variations so you, too, could make all four meals. It was going to be in the spirit of Amy Sedaris’s I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influencefunny, but kind of serious at the same time in the sense that it’s a real recipe that you could (theoretically) eat. We doubted anyone in our family would eat it (except maybe my spouse who prides himself on being a true omnivore in that he eats anything except American cheese), but, “All for the sake of the blog!” my spouse and I joked as we surveyed the resulting salmon sauce.

Except then he and our kids loved it.

My spouse had three helpings. Both kids loved the “fluffy biscuits” and our daughter had two helpings of the “salmon chowder,” which she ate like soup from a bowl rather than over the biscuits.

And I have to admit, I kind of liked it, too.

Not that I could eat any of it being that it was almost nothing but gluten and dairy and would cause me great pain if I consumed it. But it took, like, ten minutes to cook it, and that makes it incredibly appealing. I see now why we had these meals so often while Dad was on cruise (he was in the Navy, so this was “on cruise” meaning deployed on an aircraft carrier for 6-10 months at a time). Our neighbor’s mom fixed her and her brothers boxed mac and cheese and canned peas every single night their dad was on cruise. Compared to that, this was gourmet fare.

I did make a few modifications to Mom’s recipe. I bought wild-caught Pacific canned salmon, organic milk and butter, and “Heart Smart” Bisquick (the kind without hydrogenated oils but with DATEM, which should be A-OK because it’s “generally recognized as safe” by the FDA (according to Wikipedia)). But mostly, it’s just like Mom used to make.

Anyway, here’s the recipe(s). If you try it, let me know what you think.

Creamed Salmon Over Biscuits (with variations)




3 c Bisquick baking mix

1 c milk


4 T (1/2 stick) butter

3-4 T white flour

2 c milk

pinch salt

one can salmon

1. Make “drop biscuits” according to package directions. (If using “Heart Smart” Bisquick, the amounts listed double the two-person recipe on the back of the box.)


2. Melt butter in a large skillet.


3. Add flour 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring well, until the mixture is quite thick and almost dry. (I think the pros call this a “roux”. Mom called it a “paste”.)


4. Add the milk ~1/4 cup at a time, stirring well between additions, until it’s a gravy-like consistency. Add more milk if necessary to reach desired consistency (or if you make it too early and it has to sit a bit before you serve it. In this case, make sure you stir it occasionally so it doesn’t form a skin). If you add the milk slowly enough and stir well enough, the sauce will be smooth rather than chunky. If it develops recalcitrant chunks, stir it vigorously with a whisk. Salt to taste.


5. Stir in the salmon, breaking it up with the back of your spoon as necessary. Serve the sauce over cut-open biscuits and eat immediately.



Eggs a la goldenrod: Make toast instead of biscuits (we always buttered our toast while it was hot and then set it aside until the sauce was ready). Follow steps 2-4, then add 2 chopped hardboiled eggs to the sauce. Pour sauce over toast on individual plates, then garnish with more chopped hardboiled egg.

Creamed Chipped Beef Over Toast: Make like eggs a la goldenrod except substitute one package sliced chipped beef for the eggs, and garnish with more thinly-sliced chipped beef. (I hear chipped beef also comes in a jar, but I only ever had the kind in the plastic package in the deli meats section. I’ve not looked for it in years and years, though, so there’s no telling where you’ll find it in your grocery store.)

Cheddar Chowder: Make neither biscuits nor toast. Follow steps 2-4 to make the white sauce, but double all amounts (use one stick of butter, 4 cups milk, etc). When the sauce is bubbling, add chunks of sharp cheddar cheese, probably about four ounces or more (to taste). The cheese will melt and the resulting chowder should be thick but not stringy. Add white pepper for a little kick, if you like. Serve in bowls with dried chives on top (or fresh, I guess, but we never used fresh herbs when I was a kid).

And there you have it! Four meals, one way!

This post was written in response to this week’s “Remember the Time” prompt on The Waiting. Side note: I’m really enjoying writing posts for these prompts. Ah, nostalgia! This week nostalgia smells like salmon all over my house, though. I hope next week’s prompt proves less fragrant.

13 Replies to “Four Meals, One Way”

    1. Noodles sound like a good way to go with these sauces. I could also see them over rice, maybe.


      1. I vote noodles. The rice might get a little mushy. Noodles could probably handle the sauce and provide some texture (al dente). Now, I’m hungry!


  1. I love that your mom started almost all your meals the same way. My mom was kind of the same way. I have ADD when it comes to meal making…I rarely make the same thing over again and I’m bad about recipes. I just make stuff up…mostly because I’m lazy on the front end 🙂


    1. I’m kind of halfway between planning and spontaneous when it comes to meal prep. I like starting with a recipe and then modifying it mercilessly. I also like planning out meals, but I tend to get overly ambitious in the planning stages. Usually I end up following my plan for the first couple of days of the week and making nice, elaborate(ish) meals (main dish, two vegetables, clean napkins), and then by Friday, we’re eating popcorn and frozen peas at a table piled with books and junk mail.


  2. From my childhood: Tuna Wiggle, make the white sauce, add a can of tuna, peas, eat on noodles. I made it without the peas for dinner last night. I will have to see if I can find a can of salmon for next time. I also love to make my own mac and cheese, adding a couple cups of grated cheddar to the white sauce. I am usually too lazy to bake it, but it is still so much better then the boxed.


    1. We had tuna noodle casserole, which is similar to your Tuna Wiggle, I think, except that my mom used canned cream of mushroom soup instead of a homemade white sauce (and baked it with crushed potato chips on top).

      My kids prefer boxed mac and cheese to any “real” mac and cheese, but I’m not deterred and will continue trying to convince them to like the from-scratch stuff better.


    1. These are the meals that ranked as comfort foods when I left home to go to college. Over the years, I realize I’ve come to assume that they weren’t actually good, it was just the association with home that made them seem tasty in my memory, but watching the kids dig in, I’m thinking that maybe they were really and truly yummy.


  3. I actually made that cheddar chowder for some friends a couple New Years ago, served it in bread bowls and topped with CheezIts and chives – with a beer like a heavier American ale, it is an amazing pairing.

    The white sauce in all those dishes is technically a bechamel made from the roux. You can use a bechamel as a base for queso for dip or nachos, alfredo sauce, add meat and call it chowder… it’s one of mother sauces and it is mind-blowingly flexible.


    1. Cheddar chowder was always my favorite. I loved when Mom made it with swiss cheese in it, too. I still crave it sometimes.

      The kids liked this so much, I might try to craft my own clam chowder out of this “mother sauce” (aptly named since we learned it from our mom). Weird cooking something I can’t taste, though.


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