From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...I've had this "pie" at least a hundred times since I was a little girl. It's one of those dishes that people try to relegate to the back burner, but it always manages to push its way back to the front of the stove. Fish pie is great Lenten fare, and it usually ends up on the tables of the observant at least once during the Lenten season. Those of you who are not familiar with fish pies have probably had their kissin' cousin, Shepherd's Pie. Here, instead of ground lamb or beef, it's fish that is sauced and top with a thick blanket of mashed potatoes. Like many cooks, I enrich the sauce in which the fish cooks with cheese, despite injunctions from food Nazi's who insist fish and cheese should not be served together. I also go all out and make a very rich potato topping for the pie. As a matter of fact, I make Champ, a potato dish that's much loved in Ireland, to cover the casserole. Champ looks like colcannon, another potato dish that is native to the Northern Ireland. It's made by blending scallions or green onions into a base of rich and creamy mashed potatoes, and while it is great on its own, angel's sing when Champ is used to top a fish pie. It's also great with Italian sausage, but I'll save that discussion for another day. When I was quite young, my grandmother, the very Irish Maude, would add a handful of shrimp or chopped sea scallops to the white fish she used to make the pie. Back in the day, white fish, usually perch or cod could be bought at the supermarket in a frozen block for less than a dollar a pound, so Maude lived large when she made fish pie and added more expensive fish with abandon. She and my mother also shared a love of Finnan Haddie, so we often found that smoky addition in our pies as well. Now, I must be honest. There are those among you who will not like the pie even if it's made with lobster, and I suspect that most of you would not want to eat this on a daily basis, but it is good basic food and great for an occasional meatless meal. Good Friday is coming and that's a perfect day to give the pie a try. Here is how it's made.
Cod Fish Pie...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite
1-1/2 lbs Pacific cod fish fillets or 1-1/2 lbs other white fish
2 ounces butter
2 ounces flour
2 cups milk milk
3-1/2 ounces grated Gruyere cheese
1-3/4 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup whole milk
Optional: 6 scallions, finely sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2) Place fish filets in the bottom of a greased ovenproof baking dish.
3) Make a cheese sauce with the butter, flour, milk and grated cheese and pour over fish. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4) For champ topping: Add potato chunks to a pot of cold water, cover, place over high heat and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork. Remove them from heat, drain them into a colander, and then add them back into pot along with butter and milk. Using a potato masher, mash potatoes until smooth and creamy. Add in spring onions and season with sea salt and ground black pepper, stirring to combine.
5) Top fish with potatoes. Give topping an extra sprinkle of ground black pepper and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until top is starting to brown and sauce is bubbling up around edges. Serve immediately. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.
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