As I write this month’s journal, the remnants of what I hope is the last big snowstorm of the season whips around my house and banks up against the garage door, filling- in the freshly shoveled driveway as it skids around to the back field on the frozen crust of last week’s weather ‘event’. Notice the new meteorologist’s spin for howling blizzards, wind that’ll cut through sheepskin, followed by gales of freezing rain; it’s as if the innocuous term ‘event’, which might be something one looks forward to, will insulate us against the harsh realities of what is simply miserable weather. Why don’t they just say so, instead of making it seem as if we’re going to the Golden Globe Awards?( Oh dear, which toque and parka to wear with my red patent leather Naughty Monkey pumps? I know, I’ll ask Sarah Palin!)
But, I digress from the topic of this month’s culinary offering, inspired by the relentless snow and ice which surrounds me. A white dinner of fish pie, with a topping of grated potato as crisp as the icy crust covering the soft white snow beneath it, like the sumptuous cream sauce around the succulent tiger shrimp, flaky cod and plump sweet scallops, and a coleslaw of crunchy, white, shavings of fennel and celeriac is winter on a plate. If we can’t beat it, escape it or celebrate it, we might as well bite it. Bon Appetit!
|photo by L. Gatto-White|
- 1 lb. white fish fillets- hake, cod, haddock or halibut
- 5 oz. smoked haddock
- 12 oz. large tiger shrimp, deveined and shelled
- 8 oz. bay scallops
- 6 oz. button mushrooms sliced
- 1 stalk celery, finely diced
- ¼ fennel bulb, finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves crushed
- 4 shallots finely diced
- 3 stalks of tarragon leaves coarsely chopped
- 12 oz. baby spinach, blanched
- 3 medium baking potatoes
- 12 oz. shredded white cheese – Swiss, cheddar, Gouda etc.
- 4 ½ tbsp. butter
- 3 tbsp. flour
- 1 cup dry white wine or vermouth
- 1 cup each: skim milk , 35% cream
- ½ cup milk
- ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Soak smoked haddock in ½ cup of milk for 1 hour , discard milk and cut fish into 2” chunks
- Cut the white fish into 2” chunks, remove abductor muscle from scallops
- In a large sauté pan, melt ½ tbsp. butter over medium high heat, add mushrooms, celery, fennel, garlic and shallots,
- season with salt and pepper and sauté until soft
- add wine and cook until absorbed by half, remove from heat
- to make the béchamel sauce melt 2 tbsp. butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat
- add nutmeg and whisk-in flour until absorbed
- gradually whisk-in the skim milk, then the cream, stir until thick and just bubbling, season with salt ,
- remove from heat and fold-in the fish, smoked fish, shellfish, sautéed vegetables and tarragon
- butter a deep oven –proof casserole, distribute the cooked spinach evenly on the bottom, then layer on the fish cream sauce
- preheat oven to 400
- melt 2 tbsp. of butter, peel the potatoes and grate them finely with a box grater or in a food processor.
- quickly combine melted butter and potatoes, seasoning well with salt and pepper
- Fold-in shredded cheese and cover the casserole with small, loose handfuls of the potato mixture, gently squeezing out any excess moisture as you go. To ensure crispness, do not smooth or compress topping.
- Place casserole on a baking sheet in middle rack of oven, bake for 1 hour, until filling is bubbling and topping is golden and crisp. Rest for 10 mins before serving.
Crisp winter coleslaw: coarsely shred ½ fennel bulb and ¼ peeled celery root or 3 peeled celery stalks. Toss with 1 tbsp. olive oil and 1 tsp. lemon juice, season with salt and pepper serve over a bed of baby arugula drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice, garnish slaw with snipped fennel fronds, chives or green tops of spring onions.
|photo by L. Gatto-White|