Monday, March 12, 2012
Cullen Skink - A Smoked Fish Soup
From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...I've finally found a market that carries an impressive selection of smoked fish. They don't advertise the fact because most of their stock is promised to ethnic restaurants, but if you are charming enough and the planets are perfectly aligned they might deign to save a pound or two for you. This Saturday I entered the charmed circle and came home with two pounds of Finnan Haddie, the smoked haddock I'd been waiting for. Traditional Finnan Haddie is lightly smoked - so lightly that it's actually not quite fully cooked. My original plan was to make an Irish smoked fish chowder, but then I remembered a similar dish that's a bit more interesting and a lot easier to make. Some will argue that Cullen Skink is the world's greatest fish soup. That's a bit of an over statement, but I can assure you that if you like smoked fish or are looking for something new to try, I think you'll really like this Scottish soup. The aromas coming from the soup pot will stimulate the poorest of appetites and have everyone asking, "Is it soup yet?" The name of the soup conjures unfortunate images, but it's easily explained. Cullen is a fishing town on the Moray Firth, an inlet that attracts and harbors haddock. Skink is a bit harder to explain. In Ireland and Scotland it simply means a broth or weak soup. I must warn you there is nothing weak about this particular skink. It is hearty, full-flavored and delightfully creamy. It is more assertive than an American chowder and heartier than a French bisque. While it can be made with any smoked fish, haddock has much to commend it. I prefer it because, cooked properly, it will not toughen as the soup simmers. The basics of the chowder are quite straightforward. Haddock is simmered in water to form a broth that's used to impart its smoky flavor to vegetables that are added to the soup. The soup is thickened with potatoes and enriched with milk, not cream. It's a fairly substantial, rich tasting soup that is best enjoyed in small portions. There are many recipes for Cullen Skink. The recipe that follows is a slight adaption of one developed by Felicity Cloake. I think you'll enjoy it.
Cullen Skink...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite adapted from an original recipe by Felicity Cloake
1-1/2 pounds undyed smoked haddock, skin on
A bay leaf
Knob of butter (walnut-sized, about 2 tablespoons)
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 leek, washed and cut into chunks
3 medium potatoes, peeled, cut into chunks
2 cups whole milk
1 to 2 teaspoons lemon juice
Chives, chopped, to serve
1) Put fish into a pan large enough to hold it comfortably, and cover with cold water. Add bay leaf, and bring gently to a boil. Fish is usually cooked through when a boil is reached. If it does flake, give it another minute or so. Remove fish from pan and rapidly boil to reduce liquid to two cups. Remove from heat and set aside.
2) Melt butter in another pan set over medium-low heat, and add onion and leek. Cover and allow to sweat, without coloring, for about 10 minutes until softened. Season with black pepper.
3) Add potato and stir to coat with butter. Pour in reserved haddock cooking liquid and bring to a simmer. Cook until potato is tender.
4) Meanwhile, remove skin, and any bones, from haddock, and break into flakes.
5) Lift out a very generous slotted spoonful of potatoes and leeks, and set aside. Discard bay leaf. Add milk, and half of flaked haddock to pan, and either mash roughly or blend until fairly smooth.
6) Add lemon juice and season to taste. Spoon a portion of soup into each of 6 bowls. Add a generous spoonful of reserved potato, leek and haddock mixture to each serving and sprinkle with chives. Serve immediately. Yield: 6 servings.
One Year Ago Today: Dublin Coddle
Two Years Ago Today: Tortilla Soup
Links to other fish soup recipes:
Vietnamese Fish Soup: Canh Ngot - Pham Fatale
Italian Fish Soup: Zuppa di Pesce - What's Cookin' Italian-Style Cuisine
Simple Fish Soup - Jaana's Kitchen
Provencal Seafood Bisque - Simply Recipes
Oyster Stew - Seriously Soupy