My husband, Les, and I love taking road trips, and since COVID began, that’s how we have done all of our travel. Our trips may be lengthy, like our 10-day tour of Jersey, Connecticut and New York back in 2021, or quick weekend getaways to one of our beautiful North Carolina beaches. Regardless of length and destination, our trips all have a few things in common; we always have good music and snacks for the drive.
And then, there’s the ritual of departure from our home, which for me always goes something like this:
- Load our main bags into the car (Les does this part, and I do the rest)
- Do a walk-through of every single room of the house to be sure we aren’t forgetting something important
- Set out instructions for the pet sitter
- Give the dog a pat on the head and tell her she’s in charge of the house while we’re away
- Wink at the cat, who knows she’s actually going to be in charge
- Do another walk-through of the house to be sure nothing electric is plugged in
- Make a quick trip to the bathroom
- Confirm with husband that my bag is already in the car
- Double check on pet supplies to be sure my notes for the sitter match what’s in the cabinet
- Argue with husband, who keeps yelling from the garage to “COME ON!”
- Confirm the front door is locked
- Get in the car (finally)
My backpack goes behind Les’s seat (so I can reach it), and it usually includes a couple of food magazines, my iPad, laptop, charger cables, bottled water and whatever road snacks Les picked up at the convenience store when he stopped to gas up the car. All of this, even for a four-hour car ride!
When we make one of these road trips, we throw dietary caution to the wind and load up on some junky snack foods that we would never eat any other time. I mean, junk— like pizza-flavored Combos, cheap chocolate bars, bold and zesty Chex mix, or these honey-mustard and onion pretzel pieces (one of my faves).
I have no good excuse for loving these things. It’s the kind of ultra-processed snack I avoid 99% of the time. But I was raised to waste nothing, so after we get home from wherever we went, I don’t want to just throw the remains away. The leftover candy might go into Les’s lunchbox during the work week, but in the case of pretzels, chips or crackers, I can almost always crush them up and use them to coat a piece of fish or chicken.
The balance of sweet honey, salty pretzel and savory mustard works really well on salmon fillets, and it’s easy to prep this and pop it into the oven while you steam or pan fry a side vegetable. In past times, I’d simply brush a little bit of mayonnaise onto the fish before pressing it into the pretzel crumbs, but I’ve invested some time this past year learning new culinary techniques. I’ve made no secret of my crush on Kenji López-Alt for the scientific approach he takes in the kitchen, and his technique that I call the “miraculous mayo marinade” has become one of my go-tos.
A tiny bit of baking soda added to a seasoned mayonnaise mixture creates a chemical reaction that delivers more flavor into the protein you coat with it, and also helps to keep the protein (in this case, salmon) super moist and juicy after cooking. I used this simple chemistry trick to infuse my skinless salmon fillets with fresh garlic and dill, then I pressed both sides of the salmon into the crushed remains of the honey-mustard and onion pretzels.
About 20 minutes in the oven, and the salmon emerged with a golden, crunchy coating and moist, juicy interior. The fresh dill in the marinade was a perfect complement to the tangy mustard in the pretzels, and the flavor was so tantalizing, it may be tough for me to wait until our next road trip to make it again!
Honey-Mustard & Onion Pretzel Crusted Salmon
This recipe is very simple, and makes the best use of the crumbs at the bottom of a snack food bag. If you don't have these pretzels, try it with tortilla or potato chips!
- 2 portioned fillets of salmon, skin removed
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 2 cloves fresh garlic, grated on microplane
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tsp. fresh dill, chopped
- 1/8 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 cup honey-mustard and onion pretzel pieces
- Preheat oven to 350 F, with oven rack in center position. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone liner.
- Combine mayo, garlic, dill, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Add baking soda and stir for a few seconds to ensure it’s evenly distributed in the marinade.
- When the mayo mixture appears frothy and bubbly, spread it evenly over both sides of the salmon, and let the salmon rest for about 20 minutes.
- Place pretzel pieces inside a paper bag or between layers of parchment. Use a rolling pin to gently crush the pieces into smaller pieces, but not to the point of powder. Spread the crumbs out onto a plate or the parchment. Press the salmon into the crumbs on both sides.
- Arrange salmon fillets onto lined baking sheet. Scatter any leftover crumbs onto the salmon pieces and gently press to adhere.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, depending on size and thickness of salmon fillets.