St. Patrick’s Day doesn’t only have to be about corned beef and cabbage. Irish cooking has lots of great food, with lots of it in the comfort category with potato dishes, stews of lamb and beef, pork dishes, farm cheeses, puddings and breads.
Irish cooking also has a lot in common with traditional Maine cooking. It’s a small country surrounded by the sea so oysters, salmon and periwinkles appear on Irish menus, too, and like the rest of the British Isles, so does smoked haddock, which some of us know by the name Finnan Haddie (haddock from Findon, Scotland).
So imagine combining smoked haddock with potatoes and a good cheddar. It turns out to be a rich and savory combination, and doesn’t take long to prepare.
Granted, smoked haddock can be a bit pricey. It isn’t always available in the seafood department of grocery stores, though many fish markets keep it on hand. For those of you who want to make this recipe at home, you might buy your fish when you see it then freeze it until you’re ready to make a meal out of it. If you decide you like the idea of fish, potatoes and cheddar together, you can substitute in fresh fish or use a mixture of fresh and smoked. Try smoked mackerel or trout if you like them.
As I put this dish together, inspired by an article on modern Irish cookery from Saveur Magazine, I kept thinking of ways to vary it. You could, for example, layer it in a ceramic or glass baking dish with mashed potatoes on the bottom and the creamed smoked haddock over that. Then top it with cheddar and bake or broil.
Or you could do as I did and mash together the creamed fish, mashed potatoes and onions, and fold in some of the cheddar. Then top it with the rest of the cheddar and run it under the broiler to turn the top cheese a golden color. I put mine in single-serve ramekins.
About three-and-a-half to four ounces of fish is a decent portion for one person. Figure on a medium potato for each person, and just use cheddar to taste. If you fix a traditional finnan haddie for yourself, you’ll see that you start this dish the same way by cooking the haddock in a little cream.
Smoked Haddock, Mashed Potatoes and Cheddar
1 medium potato per serving
2 tablespoons of butter
1 small sliced onion per person, or 1 medium onion for 2-3 servings
3 ½ – 4 ounces of smoked haddock per person
Cream sufficient to nearly cover the fish
2-3 gratings of nutmeg, or to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 ounce of grated cheddar per person, or more or less to taste
Parsley or scallions to taste
1. Boil the potatoes to tender, remove from the heat, drain and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a skillet on a medium heat and add the onion, cooking it until it is softened, then remove it from the pan and set it aside.
3. Put the fish and cream into the skillet and simmer for about 10 minutes until it flakes apart. Add the nutmeg.
4. Mash the potatoes, adding a little butter and cream from the skillet holding the fish.
5. Fold in the fish, onions, a little cheddar and enough remaining cream to create a moist mixture. Stir in the parsley or scallions.
6. Spoon into a baking dish or ramekins, top with more grated cheese and broil until the top is bubbly and golden colored.