Monday, February 13, 2006

In the evening, in the soup

I got to do my favorite kind of cooking Saturday. Most of the time, I either follow a recipe mostly faithfully, or just wing it. Those are each fun in their own way, but what I really love to do is devote a night to researching different recipes for something, looking for the common threads, and coming up with my own version.

Years ago, as part of the quest for good frozen food, we bought something called an "admiral's pie." It was fish and cream sauce and topped with cheesy mashed potatoes, and it was real good. I can't ever remember seeing it in a store again, and it's been in the "we oughta make that someday" list ever since.

A quick Google search suggested that "Admiral's Pie" is a name used only by the manufacturer, Young's Bluecrest Seafood Ltd. I can't find it in the States, but apparently Admiral's Pie is the best selling frozen dinner in the UK.

So with screen after screen on Google showing a lot of fans but no recipes, I switched over to a generic "fish pie". Gold mine. A ton of recipes to choose from, similar enough to compare but different enough to get ideas.

And this is what I wound up with, named for a song that played while I made it:

Jack Hinks' Fish Pie

About a pound of cod
A tin of kippers plus a pack of smoked scallops
3/4ths pound of small cooked shrimp (41-50s?), peeled
A leek, sliced
About half a package of frozen peas
About half a package of frozen pearl onions
3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped large
6 or 7 medium-small potatoes, mashed
A mix of Gruyere and Machengo cheeses, grated, about a large handful
3 small cloves garlic
A bay leaf
Black pepper
About 3 tablespoons of flour

NEXT TIME: 2-3 leeks, no pearl onions. Proper smoked fish, not canned, if I can find it in my quiet mountain town. Might go down to half a pound of shrimp. Maybe a cheddar or some other more aggressive cheese.

Chop the fish into about 2-bite pieces, cover with milk. Add garlic and bay leaf. Bring almost to a boil, cover, and turn off heat. In 10 minutes, remove the fish, throw out the bay leaf, and reserve the liquid.

Rinse the oil off the smoked fish (sigh), and break into flakes. Break up the fresh fish too, and mix all the fish plus the shrimp in a large baking dish.

Sweat the sliced leeks in some butter. When the leeks are about done, add the peas and pearl onions, just to thaw them. Mix the cooked veggies into the fish. Remember the chopped eggs? Add them too.

Make a bechamel sauce. What's that? Apparently it's just a light roux and milk, with nutmeg (and black pepper). Who knew?

What's a roux? Oh, bless your heart.

Melt some butter (2 Tbsp?) and add a roughly equivalent amount of flour (3 Tbsp). Use medium low heat. Once it stops smelling of raw flour and starts to smell faintly of nuts, you got roux. If you're doing this "right", you want to whisk in warm milk when the roux is sand-colored. If, like me, you're using the pan you just cooked the leeks in, you'll shoot right past that stage. Mine was about peanut butter colored, which means the "bechamel" was too. Didn't hurt the flavor any, though.

Anyway, whisk in ladles of that poaching liquid until you have enough sauce to basically cover the fish. Mine was thickened, but not heavy like a pasta sauce. Add a little grated nutmeg and black pepper.

Remember the cheese? You can mix it in with the fish, or whisk it into the bechamel. (At which point, it's not bechamel anymore. Give it a foo-foo French name. I call mine Sauce Clouseau.)

(Herself is insisting that it doesn't need a foo-foo French name, since it already has a perfectly good name. She says it's called "cheese sauce." In French that would be "sauce fromage." I like mine better.)

Pour the sauce over the fish-veggie mix. Top with mashed potatoes. (I made great mashed potatoes last night, which is an accomplishment for me. If I can do it again, I'll tell you my secret. Needed salt, though.)

Bake for half an hour. Tell everyone it didn't come out right. Eat the whole thing yourself.


Thanks to:

Squander Two Blog's recipe for not having any amounts listed. Liberating, that.

Winterwolf's tip to poach the fish with only residual heat, and save the liquid for the bechamel.

Erdine's Fish Pie (from Maine, no less) for reminding me that I was going to want peas in this. And maybe pearl onions.

The Beeb gave me a real taste for smoked fish, and Annette from Kent suggested shrimp or other shellfish.


Blogger GrigorPDX said...

Mmm ... sounds tasty. Might have to give that a shot one of these days when I'm not too tired to cook. :-)

1:30 AM, February 14, 2006  
Blogger Joe said...

It takes some time, but it makes a good 6 servings or so...

8:00 AM, February 14, 2006  
Blogger tommyspoon said...

Sounds good, but it'll never be made in my house. Sweetie hates the seafood. Hates it!

8:40 AM, February 14, 2006  
Blogger lemming said...

Mr. Spoon - too bad! I love seafood. (Catfish live in streams and therefore do not, obviously, count as seafood.)

Sound like the next time we have a gathering, I need to chip in some $$$ and attempt some friendly groveling... er, persuasion.

4:56 PM, February 14, 2006  

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