Christmas Dinner

For Christmas dinner, I knew I wanted to make some sort of a seafood dish. I was originally thinking along the lines of a creamy seafood stew, such as with lobster, clams and scallops, but totally went overboard for our small Thanksgiving dinner and wanted something more low-key. In the face of skepticism, I finally settled on a fish pie. (Fish pie for Christmas dinner? Sounds gross.)

The recipe is from Jamie Oliver’s book The Naked Chef Takes Off: Fantastic fish pie.

It may not be that impressive to look at, but rest assured it was delicious (creamy, herby, tangy) and so welcome on a cold winter’s night. Here’s Jamie’s recipe, with my notes added in italics.

  • 5 large potatoes, peeled and diced into 1-inch squares (I used a mix of russet, purple, and red – leftovers from my winter CSA share. Ended up using 7 potatoes since they were small.)
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs (for hardboiling)
  • 2 large handfuls of fresh spinach(I used two varieties of kale. You can use any cooking greens: beet greens, chard, mustard or turnip greens…whatever you have.)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • approximately 1 1/3 cups heavy cream
  • 2 good handfuls of grated sharp cheddar or parmesan cheese (I used a raw Manchego, which is a Spanish sheep’s milk cheese that can be used in place of parmesan. It can be found at cheese or gourmet shops — don’t buy it at the grocery store, it’ll probably taste like plastic. Cheddar or parmesan would be just as good.)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 heaped teaspoon English mustard (Most brown or dijon mustard will do.)
  • 1 large handful of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 lb haddock or cod fillet, skin removed, pin-boned and sliced into strips (Haddock is currently more plentiful and cheaper than cod.)
  • Fresh nutmeg (optional) (But so yummy…so you should probably add it if you have some.)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.. Put the potatoes into salted boiling water (in an appropriately-sized pot so you can put a steaming basket or colander on top of it) and bring back to a boil for 2 minutes. Carefully add the eggs to the pan and cook for a further 8-10 minutes, until hard-boiled, by which time the potatoes should also be cooked.

At the same time, steam the spinach (or greens) in a colander above the pan. This will take only a minute. When the greens are done, remove from the colander and gently squeeze out any excess moisture (do this with a kitchen towel, not a paper towel. More absorbent and less waste.) Then drain the potatoes in the colander. Remove the eggs, cool under cold water, then peel and quarter them. Place to one side.

In a separate pan, slowly fry the onion and carrot in a little hot olive oil for about 5 minutes, then add the cream and bring just to the boil. Remove from the heat and add the cheese, lemon juice, mustard, and parsley.

Put the spinach, fish, and eggs into an appropriately-sized earthenware dish (any deep, oven-proof dish will do) and mix together, pouring the creamy vegetable sauce into it.

The cooked potatoes should be drained and mashed – add a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, and a touch of grated nutmeg if you like. Spread on top of the fish. Don’t bother piping it to make it pretty – it’s a homely hearty thing (as you can tell from my photo!)

Place in the oven 25-30 minutes until the potatoes are golden.

I served this with an arugula salad with roasted beets, carrot ribbons, toasted pecans and a homemade mustard and herb vinegar dressing. Carrot ribbons: after peeling and cleaning carrots, continue to peel them into the salad – looks very pretty.

The pie turned out so tasty! I served it to my parents and older brother, and everyone took seconds or thirds. My brother, who doesn’t like haddock or cod, took three servings! You can substitute the fish for lobster, scallops, shrimp, etc. Try to find local shrimp if possible. Most shrimp you find in the grocery store has been farmed in Asia with poor water quality, and has been previously frozen. Ask questions — and enjoy!!

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