Good Smoke Bad Smoke

A baked fish pie a lá Fergus Henderson

A baked fish pie a lá Fergus Henderson

The April Charcutepalooza challenge is hot smoking, and April 1st is the date that my building officially became non-smoking. I’ve smoked cigarettes on and off for years, and for the last ten years or so I’ve derived less pleasure and more distaste for this particular vice. It’s expensive, stinky, and makes it difficult to solicit French kissing, even from really good friends. Hmph. I’m choosing to view this brutish and totalitarian breach of my civil rights as an opportunity, so wish me luck. Also: I’m in the market for a few new vices; suggestions & samples welcome. On to the good smoke ..

The recipe for this fish pie is from Fergus Henderson’s The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating, and I was reminded of it when Ryan cooked it for his excellent Parkinson’s Appeal cooking marathon. I tweaked the recipe a bit: instead of buying smoked haddock, I smoked my own. I would have liked to use alder wood chips, but I was fresh out, so instead I used a bit of hickory. I worried that the hickory might overwhelm the haddock, but I used a very small amount, and I only smoked the fish for 20 minutes, and in fact the smoked haddock tasted fantastic.

Smoked haddock, milk, and peppercorns infusing

Smoked haddock, milk, and peppercorns infusing

I tweaked the béchamel a bit by gently infusing some shrimp shells in warm milk, which added a lovely sweet shell-fishy note. I then heated the milk up to a bare simmer and poured it over the warm smoked fish and let it cool to room temperature while I went about the rest of the recipe preparation. Hard-boiled eggs chopped, potatoes cooked and mashed with lots of good butter, and finally a béchamel made with the smoky, shrimpy fish-milk infusion. Here’s the pie before I slathered it with the béchamel and topped it with the warm potato mash:

Smoked haddock and hard-boiled eggs await the application of béchamel & mashed potatoes

Smoked haddock and hard-boiled eggs await the application of béchamel & mashed potatoes

After the above-mentioned slathering & topping, I simply dragged the tines of a fork artfully across the mash (which creates a surface ideal for becoming crunchy and yummy) and carefully boxed up the whole thing to be carted up to dinner with mom & her sweetie.

Fish pie assembled and roughed up with the tines of a fork

Fish pie assembled and roughed up with the tines of a fork

The pie baked up beautifully in mom’s oven, and we enjoyed it very much with boiled little peas and a crunchy salad courtesy of mom.  Yum!

Fish pie assembled and roughed up with the tines of a fork

Baked to perfection: crunchy-golden on top and creamy comfort inside, with little peas

The next night I served leftover fish pie for my friend at our soon-to-be regular girls Friday night geek & eat fest, and I made this little salad, inspired by Raymond Blanc, as our starter:

A composed salad of home-cured duck breast, greens, toasted pecans, crispy duck-skin cracklings, and a walnut vinaigrette

A composed salad of home-cured duck breast, greens, toasted pecans, crispy duck-skin cracklings, and a walnut vinaigrette

A perfect celebration of spring, friendship, food, and letting go of the stinky bad smoke!

Coming soon: Yet another reason to love Canadians.

About mosaica

Ugly & fabulous, warm & obsessive, brilliant & dorkmeisterish: striving to be a warrior in her little context.
This entry was posted in charcuterie, duck, Fish, recipe, Smoke and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Good Smoke Bad Smoke

  1. Rebecca says:

    Looks wonderful ! .. and congratulations on quitting. Lots of luck ~ you’ll be glad you did. Food will taste even better!

    • mosaica says:

      Thanks Rebecca! It’s been very uncomfortable at times over the past two weeks, but I’m unwavering. The fish pie (and other tasty bits) help. Oh no, I’ll get FAT! ;-)

  2. uke mochi says:

    Gorgeous as always!!

    • mosaica says:

      Thanks a lot! It’s making me think about driving up to hermit Island to catch me some stripers (I just backspaced through `strippers’) & mackerel. I LOVE smoked mackerel.

  3. Celia says:

    Love me some Fergus Henderson! This looks sooo delish – an awesome fishy take on shepherd’s pie. I’m totally curious what you geek out about now, too… :-)

    PS – I do actually have that tat http://www.flickr.com/photos/56511627@N04/5621374193/in/photostream

    • mosaica says:

      That’s exactly what it’s like, Celia, a fishy shepherd’s pie. I love all forms of shepherd’s pie. I’m am a hopeless nerdy dorkmeister geek about pretty much everything, but lately me & the grrls have been checking out 2nd life, which is pretty fly for someone who primarily played in object-oriented text-based playgrounds back in the 90′s :-)

      That is one excellent tattoo :-)

  4. Amy says:

    That fish pie looks grand even though it hides treacherous eggs! Congrats on the new smoke-free realm, even if it was externally imposed. Smoked mackerel, mmm. We need to collide soon!

    • mosaica says:

      I love “treacherous eggs!” I will use the term should I ever share this recipe. And I agree about the collision. Must drive west soon! Kiss everyone :-)

  5. MrBelm says:

    Nice looking pie, and great photography.

    I’d suggest pork as a vice to substitute for cigarettes, but you already have that monkey (pig?) on your back.

    • mosaica says:

      Thanks, Mr. Belm! Yep, the pig is a given. Hm, maybe fois gras or truffle? I’ve never cooked with truffle, and it’s apparently smelly, but in a Really Nice way. I’ll start trying to manifest a truffle in my kitchen.

  6. MrBelm says:

    You’ll go broke very quickly if you develop a truffle or foie gras habit. A cookbook addiction has its benefits: no calories consumed – at least not directly – and you learn new stuff.

    • mosaica says:

      Good point. And I have, er, a very good start on the cookbook habit already :-) I just got New Portuguese Table and Raising Chickens for Dummies, the second of which is only very peripherally a cookbook. Can’t wait to make the milk liquor in the former one though.

  7. Julia says:

    That looks so so good. And I’ll have seconds of that salad, please! And congrats on the quitting! It’s so hard.
    p.s. Do you have a good smoked mackerel recipe? I’m planning on making some very soon…

    • mosaica says:

      Thanks Julia! I do have a recipe of sorts; it’s not so practical, but is really delicious: Camp somewhere on Casco Bay, in Maine. Fish all day until a bit too sunburned, and you have a creel full of stripers & mackerel. Steam the stripers with white wine, olive oil, fresh herbs, S&P, and lemon slices until sweet & tender. While the striper steams in its tin-foil packet, clean your mackerel well, rinse, and pat dry. Season inside and out with salt and pepper. Place the mackerel in fish-grilling baskets and hang them on an upright stick with a few Y-shaped branches on the smokey side of your campfire. Check them every now and again: after dinner, after s’mores, before sleep, each time you get up to pee, etc., turning the basketed mackerel and adding another log to your campfire.

      In the morning the mackerel should be finished. Eat with good moist whole-grain rye bread, butter, and scrambled eggs.

  8. Winnie says:

    Your fish pie looks so interesting and delicious! I’ve never tasted one but would love to. ps So glad you gave up the bad smoking :)

    • mosaica says:

      Thanks Winnie! It really is tasty and comforting, especially on a chilly evening. Like Celia said above, it’s like a cozy fishy shepherd’s pie. I really like the hard-boiled eggs in the pie; they add texture and richness. And yumminess.

      Thanks also for the good quit-wishes; I’m still finding it uncomfortable, but not even putting the smallest dent in my unwaveringness :-)

  9. Awesome!
    Congrats on the smoking…. that’s a tough one.

  10. Hey, I am not even a fish fan but this post might just convince me to learn. WOW. You completed a fabulous smoking challenge – well done!

  11. Ryan says:

    I was just re-reading this post and I noticed that my comment was missing! Maybe I didn’t press the “post comment” button. :( Regardless, I love this post because the pictures and writing bring back the not-to-distant memories of an amazing dish.

    You rock!

  12. mosaica says:

    Hey Ryan, thanks! And thanks for the inspiration; that cooking marathon was fantastic, and really fun to follow along via cam. I can’t wait to make something similar, perhaps in early fall, with trout that I always have lots of. In fact, I catch the trout, smoke ‘em, and then freeze ‘em, and then I can make smoked fish cakes, smoked fish bisque, etc. Cheers!

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