I love seafood. I'd rather have shrimp, scallops, grouper, mussels or pretty much anything from the sea than a steak or chicken any day of the week, and Judson rolls his eyes endlessly at my need to try every possible type of oyster that's ever on a menu.
But fish pie and fish stew had always sounded a little iffy, even to me. I'm always kind of wary of any seafood dish that just boasts 'fish' in its title instead of a specific type of fish-- how do you know what's in there otherwise?
However, then I moved to Scotland and learned the joys of Cullen Skink. Seriously, cullen skink is the best. It's a warm, hearty smoked fish stew made with haddock, leeks, and cream that's the perfect way to end a chilly autumn day. So I figured if I've opened my mind to fish stew, it was definitely time to give fish pies a try. And with Scottish restaurants being full of fish pies (especially this time of year), it's never been easier to embrace my newfound passion. I mean, seriously: they're so popular here that my favourite British food magazine did an entire feature on them this month.
Over the past few years of living in Scotland, I've learned to love fish pies as much as I love most seafood, so I was excited when I found this recipe to give one a try myself. The beauty of fish pies is that they're generally not made with pastry crust, and instead are layered like a cottage pie. There's a creamy fish filling as the base, topped with seasoned mashed potatoes, and, in the best cases, perfectly crisped breadcrumbs. This recipe delivers on all that and more, and this time of year in Scotland, when the days are longer but not quite summery yet, it's the perfect mix of warm and tasty without being too hearty or heavy.
If you live in the UK, this is the perfect chance to use smoked haddock from your local fishmonger. (If you're stateside, try haddock, cod, or even salmon). Hilariously (to me, anyway), this fish pie calls for '2 teaspoons of onion juice,' which is definitely one of the weirdest ingredients I've run into since starting this project. However, bereft of an onion juicer, I was forced to improvise: I minced two teaspoons of onion so fine it was basically paste and used that instead. (It worked fine, so this is what I've listed below).
If you're like me and wary of fish pies, I'd encourage you to give this a try. With mashed potatoes, smoked fish, buttery crunchy breadcrumbs, and all the flavour you can shake a stick at, what's not to love? Even on a weeknight, this comes together quickly and easily, and if you have leftovers, they're just as tasty the next day!
5 spoons out of five. This dish is one of my new staples, especially great for an easy weeknight dinner paired with a green salad and a glass of white wine.
Grease a pie plate and preheat the oven to 200C/400F.
Make the mashed potatoes: peel and chop the potatoes into fairly uniform-sized chunks.
In a large pot of water, boil the potatoes until fork-tender, drain, and return the potatoes to the pot.
Turn the heat back on very low and mash the potatoes over low heat (this releases the steam and helps dry the potatoes out).
Remove from heat, add ¼ c milk, 1 tbsp butter, salt and pepper to taste, then mash until smooth and set aside.
Meanwhile, place ½ tbsp butter in a small oven-safe dish and pop in the oven to melt.
Once butter has melted, remove from the oven and add breadcrumbs, a pinch of dried dill, and a pinch of garlic powder, stirring to combine.
Place breadcrumbs back in the oven to toast for 5 minutes or until golden and crisp while you make the white sauce.
Make the white sauce by melting the last 1 tbsp butter over medium heat in a small pot.
Blend in flour and a pinch of salt, stirring constantly over low heat until mixture is bubbling and very smooth.
Cook for one minute, then turn off heat and VERY GRADUALLY in a slow and steady stream, add remaining ½ c of the milk.
Return to heat, stir constantly, bring to a boil and allow to thicken.
Once sauce has thickened, gently stir flaked fish, onion and lemon juice into the sauce, keeping the fish in large chunks as much as possible-- you want a nice, thick 'sauce,' not a paste.
Pour white sauce mixture into prepared pie plate, then pipe or spread mashed potatoes over the top.
Sprinkle with parmesan and toasted breadcrumbs, then bake for 15-20 minutes until warmed through.
2 c potatoes
¾ c milk, divided
2 ½ tbsp butter, divided
Salt & Pepper to taste
½ c bread crumbs
1 tbsp flour
2 c flaked cooked fish (smoked haddock is ideal!)
2 tsp minced onion
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp parmesan, grated