Though fish may not immediately pop to mind when naming hearty and warm winter fare, it could and it should. Seafood pie, fish pie, and cod cobbler are different names for essentially the same Irish dish. All are close relatives to the familiar shepherds’ pie. Of course, along with moors and pasturelands, a ribbon of nearly 2,000 of miles of rugged coast rims the Emerald Isle. Centuries-old fisherman and mariners pulled seafood into yawls, nobbies, curraches, and hookers. The bounty of their nets has been as essential to Irish cuisine as roots, tubers, cabbage, beef, lamb, and bread. The cool and rainy seaside climate has also had a strong influence on Irish cuisine, leading to dishes that are warm, rich, and nourishing.
Imagine soothing spoons full of steamy savory pie lifted from bubbling buttered hot crocks piled with mounds of fluffy mashed potatoes. Those spuds and softened vegetables pair well with tender flaky white fish swimming in a creamy, earthy sauce. This is the stuff of an old fishing tale, and of fisherman’s pie. And while fresh fish is always my first choice, I successfully made this dish with thawed walleye, courtesy of my friend JJ Reich of Vista Outdoors.
Here’s a recipe for two bowls full of warm Irish tradition. One is for you; the other for your bonny lad or lass.
1 pound filleted white fish, deboned and cut into chunks
1 cup sliced cremini or baby bella mushrooms
2 small carrots, diced
1 stalk celery, diced thin
1 small-medium onion, diced
1 cup whole milk
¼ cup half and half
¼ cup white wine
1 ½ tablespoons flour
1 ½ tablespoons butter
½ tablespoon fresh thyme
Dash of pepper sauce
1 bay leaf
1 lb potatoes, mashed with milk and butter to taste.
In a large pan over medium/medium-high heat, melt butter, add onion, carrot, and celery. Sauté until almost tender. Add sliced mushrooms and cook additional 3-5 minutes.
Sprinkle flour onto veggies. Stir to incorporate, cooking a few more minutes.
Add white wine, then add milk, cream, thyme, bay leaf, pepper sauce, and salt to taste. Allow mixture to bubble gently until the gravy begins to thicken. Lay in fish and parsley and cook until fish is almost done.
Pour mixture into a single baking dish, or into small individual dishes. Place dish(es) onto a cookie sheet to prevent drips and bubbling over.
Top mixture with mashed potatoes, and bake at 375°F for 20-30 minutes, or until potatoes brown. If time is almost up and the spuds have not browned, move the tray to top rack and broil until browned.
Serve with fresh tomato and greens drizzled with a balsamic reduction (or your dressing of choice).