Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Fish Pie

  • Looking over all of my whopping 36 posts, I notice that, fish has been a most neglected entity. Shameful, indeed I must say! In comparison, there are an imposing 5 recipes dedicated to chicken,  a break even of 3 which utilize the hefty meats of beef and pork and a whirlwind of desserts. How could I have  I managed  to completely ignore this gilled friend of ours? Mind you, it was not purposeful oversight, so regular in our dinner rotation is fish that maybe, just maybe it was overlooked. Sorry Charlie! 

  • Fish pie is on the menu tonight. 

  • When you hear pie, it might call to mind various sweet- filled, fruited- up pastry wonders. Nope, this is not that kind of pie. It is savory, sans a topcrust. Actually, it features a seasoned fish production costarring sauced up veggies all auditioning as pie.

  • This recipe comes from a tradition of sorts. Not the conventional platter of British lore , though it could've very well been adapted from it. This fish pie is of local origin, as in- my- home state- local, that is. A pie made by many kindred culinary mavens( including my mother- in -law) of my husband's clan, typically assembled as a routinely informal spread. 

  • I learned this from an aunt of JZ's, whom I'd visit on a daily basis, in those early days,when my kitchen was not much of a favored domain ( as it is now), and when someone else's definitely pulled in my interests. It was she who taught me fish pie. I have made thousands of these fish filled casseroles, since (maybe not go that far, we''ll leave it to a modest hundreds).

  • On that point, I'll also furnish a quick mention of a narrative my husband carries with our time-honored fare.

  • Once upon a time, long long ago, a mama was baking a massive fish pie for her 5 hungry boys + 1 hungry husband, the smells of it soliciting even greater yearning. They left to go out for an hour or so,  the pie, which by then, would be ready, cooled, and most perfect to eat. Unbeknownst to them a window was left wide open inviting a ravenous cat and her litter to feed on the beautifully made pie. The boys came back and saw that their pie was gone (sniff, sniff), except for the mess of a plate and some tattered leftovers all over the kitchen floor, the trace of a startled black tail trailing out the window. What a plight, the cat and her brood fattened by the much awaited meal, and here, the unfortunate tummies digesting Ramen noodles, in its wake. End of story; told a hundred times, reaching folkloric heights. Sad indeed, don't you think? 

  • The story and its characters are none other than JZ ( as a boy), his mom, dad, and four brothers. Since the integrity of the tale raises minor dispute on the details amongst the others, perhaps more so to mom, about the evening ( to the likes of, "where were we?" and "when did all this happen?"), I won't claim it as much a fact, as it is a result of my husband's very vivid  imagination memory of a much anticipated childhood dinner and an apt presentation to this meal.

  • I like to bake the pieces of fish first before merging into bechamel (white) sauce, packed full with almost a garden's worth of vegetables. In my white sauce I have used a method that never fails ( on me that is). I cook the sauce alongside the sauteed vegetables. The result is blended refinement, oozing a smooth creaminess, with a slight tang of cheese. A mellow, but very full toned dish.
  • With this recipe, a feeding of four will happen, so double for leftovers which are even better.

  • Ingredients:
  • 1 pound tilapia fillets ( boneless)or any white fish, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (red chili powder)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil or any other cooking oil
  • 2 serranos or jalapenos (deseed if needed)
  • 1 cup broccoli ( cut into small florets)
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped into coins
  • 1 large potato, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 tsp ginger, chopped fine
  • 3 green onions, cut into ½ pieces
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 heaped tbsp all purpose flour
  • *2 cups very warm milk
  • ½ cup frozen peas
  • *½ cup shredded cheese of choice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 5 pats of butter 
  • Preheat oven to 400.
  • Season fish pieces with lemon juice, salt, pepper and cayenne . Place in a foil lined baking sheet.
  • Pour 2 tablespoons oil over fish.
  • Bake for 12 minutes (fish may not be done, the final cooking will happen in the end bake)
  • Take out of oven.
  • Reduce oven heat to 350° F.
  • Steam broccoli in microwave according to microwave directions until soft but florets retain color.
  • In oil, over medium heat, saute potatoes, carrots for 4 minutes, add in all your ingredients from the bell pepper to the green onions for an additional 3 minutes.
  • Take off heat. Stir in the broccoli, drained of any water
  • Add in peas.
  • Take out serranos or jalapenos, if needed, at this point.
  • Add in butter to the vegetables, let melt.
  • Add all purpose flour. Combine with vegetables using a  wooden spoon for a minute allowing flour cook through.
  • Pour in milk, let  it come to a boil and have it simmer for an additional minute or so.
  • Stir in cheese and let melt into sauce and vegetables.
  • Take sauced vegetables off heat.
  • Mix in salt and pepper .
  • In an oven proof casserole pan, begin layering sauce and fish pieces. Starting with the sauce pour in a couple of ladlefuls as a base. Then place 4-6 fish pieces on top of sauce. Repeat until you end with sauce.
  • Top with breadcrumbs and butter pats. Place final dish in oven, preheated to 350 °F.
  • Bake for 20 minutes.

To keep it light I always use skim milk, really can't tell the difference.
I used grated Gruyere here, but high moisture, meltable cheeses work well- mozzarella, fontina, cheddar, etc. (On occasion I've used the Laughing Cow wedges)

Fish pie was also one of my entries in a season of online cooking competitions for  RWOP. In lieu, of my white sauce here, I made a sauce from boiled potatoes blended with milk and Philadelphia cooking creme. It was a creamier, richer dish. Since, it required video footage of myself, I don't like to make mention of it too much. In all fairness, it was great fun.
You are wearied when you take it up on your own. Trust Him and hand the burden over. He's your refuge, always.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30


  1. This looks super colorful and tempting... though I don't eat fish that much.. :-)

    Yum! Yum! Yum!

    1. Thank you Mythreyim, take away the fish and make a veggie one instead :))

  2. This looks absolutely yummy.. you made me hungry.. atleast I've to eat a piece of cheese to get taste now..

    1. Thanks Reshmi, sorry for the hunger pangs- at least the cheese did you good. Next time, keep fish on hand and use the cheese for the pie ;-)

  3. Beautiful fish pie,Tisa..Feeling hungry ryt away,Any left overs???

    Ongoing Events at(Erivum Puliyum)-
    1. The Kerala Kitchen(June'12)

    2.EP Series-Basil OR Cardamom

    1. Thanks over. No leftovers, but come on over, I'll make you a brand new one :))

  4. The sauce made with boiled potatoes blended with milk and Philadelphia cooking creme really sounds awesome! I love tilapia fish, so going to try this awesome recipe, complete with veggies on the top! I tried another kind of Fish pie with salmon and tuna and both were good. Can't wait to try out your recipe...sounds tempting!

    1. Thank you Purabhi. I'm sure it would be great with salmon and tuna. I've had it several times with tuna, really good.

  5. My husband loves all kinds of fish dishes. For some reason, I am not much of a fish eater. But this fish pie looks tempting to me, I love the creamy flavor (and mind you, I have not tasted it yet, I am just looking at your pictures...) You are indeed a blessing. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words. They made my day :))


Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me!