Good Friday is this week. Aside from its religious significance, it is the last meatless Friday of the lenten season and another fish based dinner to plan. As I have indicated in a previous post, my husband and I are not terribly adventurous when it comes to eating fish, so I am constantly looking for appealing ways to dress up basic seafood varieties such as salmon, cod or shrimp. I came across this recipe in Nigella Lawson's Christmas cookbook titled, Nigella Christmas. Not only did it use the kinds of fish varieties we like, it was relatively simple and a bit different from what we are used to.
I must confess, though I find Nigella's more free-spirited and less conventional approach to cooking inspiring, and her mix of Italian, English and Indian recipes refreshing, many of her recipes I've tried have been disappointing. So, though a bit skeptical about trying this recipe, it featured ingredients we like, but more importantly, it is a "gratin" and I like just about anything "gratin".
Just think of bite sized pieces of fish nestled in a flavorful cream sauce topped with thin slices of garlic flavored potatoes. Sound somewhat familiar? Think seafood thermidor, but with lots more flavor, and topped with potatoes instead of the usual breadcrumb finish. This is a great dinner entree or wonderful as part of a brunch buffet.
This dish was quite delicious and I would definitely make it again. The cream sauce, though loaded with parsley and scallions was extremely flavorful, but without the parsley or onion flavors too overwhelming. The fish I used included fresh salmon, cod and shrimp, the fresher the better. All were simply scrumptious with every bite, but any combination of fish could be used - lobster, scrod, scallops, come to mind. I didn't want the dish to be soupy so I made sure to blot the fish well with paper towels before adding it to the sauce. The only thing I would do different next time, would be to use more potatoes for the topping, by either arranging the slices much closer together or adding a second circle of slices. Of course, a great bread crumb topping laced well with lemon zest and lots of parsley would also, be quite great as well.
Parsleyed Fish Gratin
3 T. butter
1/3 c. all purpose flour
1 T. dry white vermouth or dry white wine
1/4 tsp. ground mace or nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 1/2 c. whole milk
1 1/2 T. chopped chives or scallions
1 c. finely chopped parsley
2 medium-sized potatoes, unpeeled & very thinly sliced
3/4 lb. skinless salmon
3/4 lb. cod or similar white fish
3/4 lb. raw shrimp, peeled
1 tsp. garlic oil
2 T. butter
good grinding of pepper
Make the garlic oil by heating a few crushed cloves of garlic in a few tablespoons of olive oil.
Begin by making the cream sauce: Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the flour and stir together for a minute or two to cook the flour.
Take off the heat and whisk in the vermouth (or wine - I used the vermouth), mace (or nutmeg- I used the mace), salt and mustard.
Next, add the milk (I used skim milk instead of whole and sauce was still very rich and creamy), and mix well together. Put back on heat and cook till the mixture comes to a boil and get quite thick.
Take off the heat and stir in the parsley and scallions (or chives - I used the scallions). Pour sauce into a well greased casserole/baking vessel. Set aside to cool slightly.
Cut up the salmon and cod into bite sized pieces (about 2" x 1 1/2" pieces) and blot well with a paper towel to remove excess liquid. Shell the shrimp and blot as well.
Nestle the fish into the slightly cooled cream mixture.
Very thinly slice the unpeeled potatoes using a mandoline. Arrange the slices in a concentric circle over the fish mixture, overlapping halfway across each potato as you go around the dish.
Melt the 2 T. of butter into the hot garlic oil (garlic cloves removed), and generously brush over the top of the potatoes.
Grind black pepper over the top and place in a preheated, 400 degree oven. Bake for 50 -60 minutes until bubbly and potatoes are tender. Serves four.