The clocks changed today and the sun is beginning to set at 4:27. The winds have been wildly blowing a gale through the gaps in the house all day so raking leaves was not an option, unless of course you enjoy futile efforts. Instead we put away hoses and cleaned gutters, put away screens and washed windows. The rapid descent into winter and the need for the nest to be ready to get us through the long, cold months ahead has begun.
This weekend I also accepted a challenge from Mary at The Sour Dough, our intrepid co-host and Sara at I Like to Cook our hostess with the mostest, to participate in The Weekend Cookbook Challenge. This month the challenge to cook a recipe using a rarely used cookbook in your collection is being wrapped around the theme of 'using a neglected cooking gadget/appliance'.
A long time ago after many, many apartment moves and kitchens with barely any cabinet space, I began to ascribe to the Alton Brown philosophy that a tool better multitask or it isn't welcome in my kitchen. I allow a few exceptions to that rule and I would be using two of those items for my project.
My beloved Chinois and my Food Mill. The Chinois was a request on a Christmas list many years ago that my mother thankfully fulfilled. I knew I would not use it all the time, but there are occasions when it is invaluable. If you desire silky sauces you really do want one of these babies. The food mill spends most of its life wrapped in a ziploc bag in the basement, but occasionally when the tomatoes are plentiful it comes out to extract the pulp without the seeds and skins, and again in apple season to make a glorious applesauce. Today I would be using it to make silky mashed potatoes. Most days I would use my ricer, but Tamasin Day-Lewis (yes, related to that Day-Lewis) mentioned in Good Tempered Food, her preference for using a food mill for making mash and with language like this how could you ignore her?
..."Mash is both a vehicle, background , and food in its own right. It should be cooked as carefully and with as much attention as whatever else is going to grace your plate, which it often isn't. There is absolutely no excuse in my book for watery, lumpy, slack, or under-seasoned mash, even less for butter-free mash, unless you are being ersatz Provencal and pouring in a glug of olive oil...You will realize when you begin to stir, just how smooth this precious kitchen gadget renders your potatoes. If you do not have a food mill, might I suggest they are invaluable? Soups have more texture and body when put through a food mill than if you swirl them into oblivion in a blender, and your mashed potato will be peerless. Enough said..."
Who was I to question an Irish Irish cookery writer who makes a romance novel sound more like a scientific journal in comparison to her food prose?
What I had in mind was making my husband a nice homey Fish pie. I had purchased some Hake at Whole Foods on Saturday during the monsoon in anticipation of making him this for Sunday supper. I will admit that my cookbook library is pretty large, but the English shelf had been quite neglected lately. I fingered through Delia Smith's Complete Illustrated Cookery Course, Cooking with the Two Fat Ladies, National Trust Recipes, Paul and Jeanne Rankin's Irish Cookery and the Grand Dame of all foods British, Jane Grigson's English Food seeking ideas. I took a bit from here, a bob from there, splashed on a dash of cooking school knowledge and a swirl of, Ah what the hell, and whipped this up for tea Sunday night.
The Brit responded with mouth full that, "this was a quite pie", as he took a second helping. I will likely still tweak it a bit next time, but I too was pretty chuffed myself.
4 leeks, white part only, sliced in rings and rinsed in a bowl of cold water and scooped out into a colander to drain
1 TBS butter
3 1/2 cups heavy and light cream mixed, equal parts
1 onion, peeled, sliced pole to pole
2 bay leaves
6 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined, shells reserved
2 pds Hake
salt and pepper
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut in half
4 TBS butter
1/4 cup cream
3 TBS butter
3 TBS flour
3 cups reserved cream from poaching fish(see 3 1/2 cups cream above)
1 - 2 TBS Madeira (or sherry)
2 - 3 tsps Anchovy Sauce
1/2 - 1 cup Extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
For the Leeks:
Saute the cleaned leeks gently in 1 TS butter, adding more if they get dry. Let them get soft and begin to brown. Salt and pepper them to taste.
For the Mash:
Place your potato in a large pan and cover with COLD water. Add some salt and cover. Bring to a boil and turn down immediately to a gentle simmer. Cook the potatoes until a knife or skewer presses through the potato with no resistance. Drain them carefully in a collander and return them to the pan on the heat to dry them out for a minute or two. Now place your food mill over a bowl which contains 4 TBS butter melted into 1/4 cup cream. Take a scoop or two of the potatoes and run them through the food mill. Continue until all the potatoes are done and remove the food mill. Add salt and pepper and stir your potatoes. Taste andadd more butter or seasoning if required.
Poach the Fish:
In a saute pan add the creams, the bay leaf, shrimp shells and the sliced onion. Gently lay in your fish fillets and poach them gently until almost translucent, add the shrimp for the last minute or two. Remove the fish carefully and break up in a nice deep clay baking pan or a pyrex dish. Lay the shrimp on top. Strain the cream through a chinois or double mesh strainer pressing carefully on the solids to extract all the liquid.
Make the Bechemel:
In a saucepan melt the 3 TBS butter and add 3 TBS flour and stir for about a minute. Add the reserved warm cream and stir. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook 5 - 6 minutes until it is thick. Taste. Add salt and pepper. Add Madeira and anchovy sauce. Taste again.
Assemble the Pie:
Lay the cooked leeks over the fish and shrimp, pour on the sauce (you may have leftover depending on the size of your dish), leave room for the mashed potato on top. Using a knife, make sure the sauce gets all the way through to the bottom of the dish by pushing and poking things around a bit. Now top it with your mashed potato and using a fork, drag a pattern across the top to create lots of nice crevacies to brown and fill with cheese.
Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 - 25 minutes. During the last 5 minutes top with the grated cheddar and return to the oven so it gets all lovely and bubbly and melting.