Very British Seafood Pie
Photos by Michael Piazza / Styled by Catrine Kelty
I always think of Great Britain when I’m making a savory pie, especially one topped with a buttery mashed potato crust. Both Shepherd’s and Cottage Pie are such delightful one-dish meals—casseroles really—where your meat and veg and spuds blend together harmoniously in each bite. This seafood pie is no exception, and what makes it so delightfully British is the addition of smoked trout to the filling. I’ve made other fish pies without it, and with a larger (and more interesting) variety of seafood inside, but this one wins every time. The smoky trout replaces bacon in what really feels like a chowder with a potato top, full of scallops, shrimp, fin fish and aromatic vegetables. It reheats well, and needs no accompaniment other than a green salad, some crusty bread to mop up the bottom of the bowl and a cold beer. You could serve this any time of year, but to me, it’s dead-of-winter food: hearty, creamy and rich, with all the scents of the sea.
1½ pounds potatoes (Russets or Yukon Golds)
10 shrimp, shelled and deveined, shells reserved, halved lengthwise
8 fat sea scallops, halved lengthwise
1 pound monkfish (about 2 tails), sliced into 1” medallions
6 ounces salmon or arctic char, skinned but skin reserved, cubed
1 fillet smoked trout, skinned but skin reserved, flaked
2 cups whole milk
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bay leaf
1 big sprig fresh thyme
Extra virgin olive oil
½ onion, sliced
1 rib celery, diced
½ fennel bulb, diced
1 leek, well cleaned and sliced into rounds, roots and dark green tops removed
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large bunch fresh chives, minced
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup flour
¼ cup white wine
¼ cup chopped fresh dill
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon lemon zest
½ lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Lemon wedges, for serving
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Peel and cube the potatoes and place in a stockpot; cover with water by 2 inches, add 2 teaspoons salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, skimming any foam that appears on the surface of the water, until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
While the potatoes cook, prepare the milk for the white sauce. In a heavy-bottomed pot, add the milk, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, the reserved shrimp shells, any trimmings from the fish and scallops and the salmon and trout skins. Bring to a simmer, being careful not to let it boil over, and cook 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the milk steep to absorb the aromatics.
Arrange the seafood in the bottom of a deep, ovenproof baking dish, season with salt and pepper and set aside. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet and add the onion, celery, fennel and leek. Season with salt and pepper and sauté until softened and lightly browned, at least 10-12 minutes. Set aside.
When the potatoes are soft, drain them and return them to their pot. Mash with a potato masher (or ricer, if you have one) and add ½ stick (4 tablespoons) butter and ½ cup heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper, add the minced chives and set aside, covered, to keep warm.
To make the white sauce, strain the steeped milk into a measuring cup. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and add the flour, stirring constantly (the flour will seize up immediately in the butter: Keep stirring, and it will relax). Cook the flour in butter until lightly browned, about 2-3 minutes, then whisk in the seasoned milk. Continue whisking until the sauce thickens, then add the wine, the remaining heavy cream, the lemon zest, mustard and lemon juice. Simmer 2-3 minutes to boil away the alcohol, then season with salt and pepper and stir in the chopped dill and parsley and the reserved sautéed vegetables.
Pour the sauce over the raw seafood and top with the mashed potato. Sprinkle the top with more cracked pepper, transfer the baking dish onto a baking sheet to catch any overflow, and bake in the hot oven 25-30 minutes until bubbling and browned on top. Serve in deep soup dishes with extra lemon wedges for squeezing at the table.