December 14, 2012

Fisherman's Pie

Our Daring Cooks’ December 2012 Hostess is Andy of Today’s the Day and Today’s the Day I Cook!  Andy is sharing with us a traditional French Canadian classic the Paté Chinois, also known as Shepherd’s pie for many of us, and if one dish says comfort food.. this one is it!

Thanksgiving dinner in Suffolk, England.
You can see the chestnut puree
beneath the cranberries.
A few weeks ago I went to England for my cousin's wedding. England's not really known for its food. But some of the food I had there really wowed me. It wasn't "cuisine," exactly. Just really good versions of traditional dishes. Sticky toffee pudding, for example. Not a dessert I've ever enjoyed in the U.S. But the version I had across the Pond was dense and light at the same time, sitting in a pool of the most seductive caramel sauce. That same meal, I'd enjoyed chestnut puree. A little dollop of it on the plate, just enough of the creamy nutty spread to leave me wanting more.

And then there was the fruitcake. Fruitcake! Something that I avoid like the plague here. Something that I tried at a tea (a tea!), and that only out of politeness because it had been made by my cousin's fiancé's mother. What a revelation. It turns out that traditional fruitcake doesn't contain the neon red and green "candied" fruit that you find in most American fruitcakes. It's a dense and spicy cake, loaded with raisins and currants soaked in delicious liqueur.

When I got back from my trip and saw this month's challenge, I decided to give it a British spin. I found a recipe for fish pie on the BBC's website. The BBC. I mean, how much more British can you get, right?

Start with skinless white fish. I found some beautiful flounder fillet.

Poach it in milk in which you put onion studded with cloves, bay leaves and fresh thyme.

As the fish poaches, it'll release some of its juices into the milk. And you'll use that flavored milk later in the recipe. Very clever, those Brits!

When the fish is cooked, remove it from the milk. Flake it into large chunks and lay it on the bottom of your baking dish.

Scatter frozen peas over the fish.

Strain the poaching milk into a large bowl and put it in the fridge to cool.

Get your potatoes going. Cube them up, then simmer in water for about 20 minutes until they're tender.

While the potatoes are cooking, make the sauce. Melt some butter into a saucepan. Add the flour and cook for a minute until the mixture turns golden.

Add a bit of the poaching milk and stir until blended. Gradually add more milk, stirring continuously.

Bring the mixture to a boil and then simmer for a few minutes until the sauce thickens. Keep whisking while it simmers! Season the sauce with salt and pepper.

Then pour it over the fish and peas.

Once the potatoes are tender, drain them. Mash them up with some butter, salt, pepper, and remaining milk.

Spread the potatoes over the top of your baking dish. Work in from the outside, making sure to seal the edges.

Run a fork over the top to give your potatoes ridges that will get nice and crusty in the oven.

Bake until the fish is hot and the potatoes are golden brown.

Dig in!

Fisherman's Pie

Adapted from recipe by BBCGoodFood

1 ½ lb skinless white fish filet
2 ½ cups milk, divided
1 small onion, quartered
4 cloves
2 bay leaves
10 springs fresh thyme
1 cup frozen peas
1 stick butter, divided
¼ flour
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 lb potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

1.   Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Poach the fish:
1.    Put the fish into a saucepan. Pour 2 cups of milk over the fish. Stud each quarter onion with a clove, then add to the milk with the bay leaves and thyme.
2.    Bring the milk just to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 8 minutes.
3.    Lift the fish onto a plate and strain the milk into a bowl to cool. Flake the fish into large pieces in the baking dish.
4.    Scatter the peas over the fish.

Make the sauce:
1.    Melt half the butter in a pan. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute over moderate heat.
2.    Pour in a little of the cold poaching milk, then stir until blended. Continue to add the milk gradually, mixing well until you have a smooth sauce.
3.    Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes, stirring continually until it coats the back of a spoon.
4.    Remove from the heat, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Make mashed potatoes:
1.    Boil the potatoes for 20 minutes.
2.    Drain and mash with salt, pepper, ½ cup milk and remaining butter.

Assemble and bake:
1.    Top the pie with potatoes. Start from the edges and work your way in. Be sure to seal the edges.
2.    Run a fork over the mashed potatoes. The ridges will get golden and crusty.
3.    Bake for 30 minutes until the fish is hot and the potatoes are golden brown.

Serves 4


  1. Lovely post on a classic British version, and your photos are a treat.

  2. I agree with you on the food in England - when I traveled to Europe I liked the food I had in England better than what I got in France. I wanted to make a seafood pie but my wife voted it down - looks fantastic.

  3. Looks great! I am not a big fish-eater, but it sounds like there are some lovely flavors in this dish, and I like the concept of using the poaching milk in the entire recipe! Great idea!

  4. What a great take on the challenge. I'm going to definitely make this one.

  5. I love that you made a fisherman's pie for this challenge - what a great interpretation! Wonderful job.

  6. Thanks for participating in the challenge. Your fisherman's pie looks awesome!


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