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


Ginny Hartzler said...

I have never heard this name before, but the recipe looks like the best fish chowder I have ever seen. I am going to print it.

Angie's Recipes said...

I have never had a smoked fish soup...looks so very creamy and tasty. Would really love to try it if I could find some quality smoked fish here.

Elin Chia said...

I think this soup sounds interesting. I have not heard of this name before and I have never had a smoked fish soup before and would love to try this out if I can get smoke fish :)

Rita said...

I have to admit I have never heard of this soup; really looks interesting.

Cheah said...

I've never had the privilege to try a smoked fish soup, bet it tastes good.

Red Nomad OZ said...

Haha!! I'd make it just for the look on my guests' faces when they asked what they were eating!!

Diane said...

Mmmmm I love fish Soup, have bookmarked this recipe thanks. Keep well Diane

Epicurea said...

who knew that you can make soup with smoked fish? it sounds really tasty and definitely something new to try!

StephenC said...

I'm curious. Is the haddock not completely cooked as a result of the smoking? I'm also wondering about making a soup from some of my homemade gravlax. Must research.

Kim said...

This soup really looks good. I never had smocked haddock, but I woulb be please to taste it!

Unknown said...

Smoked fish soup? I'm intrigued. I've had fish stews before, but never smoked.. sounds delicious!

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Fascinating recipe - I love smoked fish, but have never made a soup like this. And, I'm betting you have enough charm to be well stocked with smoked fish for some time to com!

mr. pineapple man said...

I have never tried fish soup (only from Asian foods)- would love to try it!

SImple and Serene Living said...

The name definitely threw me, Mary and I was hooked until I read LEEK. I just can't seem to wrap my taste buds around them. I do know one thing, though, you are charming enough to get whatever you want :)

Platanos Mangoes and Me! said...

New to me and its quite interesting. Loved the photo of the blue plate and white background.

Claudia said...

I think my bookmark bar is filled with One Perfect Bite recipes. Love this soup - and hard to find smoked fish here - sometimes trout. This would warm and satisfy the the deepest cockles of my being - all that rich smoky flavor. Perfect for our rainy day.

black eyed susans kitchen said...

This is a new recipe to me...very unique.

Anonymous said...

What a delicious soup - I love haddock and I can imagine smoked and in a soup like this it would be supberb!
Mary x

Unknown said...

I love the way you research your recipes, Mary. This sounds perfectly delicious and I am sure it is!

Chiara said...

I never heard this recipe before but I'm sure I'll like it! have a good day...

Ailyn Sánchez said...

Perfect soup, didn´t know it, thank you for the recipe and the history....

tinyskillet said... sounds like a great soup. So good what a little charm will get you! :) I might have to get out my smoker.

Joanne said...

Other than salmon, smoked fish really is hard to come by! I'll need to seek out a place here in nyc cause this sounds so tasty!

France@beyondthepeel said...

You always have such fun soups to try and this is no exception.

Jeannie said...

Fish soup is not a dish that is common here; bet this taste really yummy, love how you present your soup in that wonderfully looking bowl:)

Shug said...

Hi Mary....this is a first for me...have never heard of it before.
I saw the tortilla soup post at the bottom of this post, and I can't wait to try this one..sounds so good to me.
Hey...I would love for you to send me a copy of the orange chicken recipe that you found...thanks for looking it up...hugs

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