I was going to call this fish pie, but that seemed misleading; there’s no crust. And when most people hear “pie” they expect crust. But most everyone knows that shepherd’s pie is a mixture of meat (in this case, fish) and vegetables topped with mashed potatoes. And most everyone knows that Neptune was the Roman God of the Sea…hence, Neptune’s Shepherd’s Pie seemed more accurate. The Goddess realizes shepherds really don’t have much to do with the sea…she is reasonably certain there are no sea-horse shepherds. Maybe there should be. These shepherds would have to be very petite, very fast and accepting of fathers bearing and caring for the young…hmm…something to think about.
I’ve given you a basic recipe, but at the bottom of the recipe are different options I’ve had success with, but there certainly must be more. I do really like to include the hard-boiled eggs. They add a richness, a nuanced flavor component and of course, extra protein. They’re both unexpected and taste good. Okay?
This is a great way to use up leftovers. I usually cook extra fish, just with this dish in mind. If I don’t have enough leftover fish, then I add some cooked shrimp, crabmeat or sea legs and uncooked scallops. A note about sea legs. If we stop thinking of them as imitation crabmeat, I think we’d like them better. They most definitely are not crabmeat, but they are delicious.
Neptune's Shepherd's Pie
- 3 cups medium béchamel sauce made with:
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup shallots, scallions or onion, finely diced
- 1-4 cloves garlic, minced or 1/2-1 teaspoon garlic granules
- 1/2 cup celery, diced (optional)*
- 1/4 teaspoon ají Amarillo chile powder or cayenne pepper
- 1 to 1 1/4 pounds cooked fresh cod or a mixture of about 3 cups cooked seafood
- 3-4 ounces shredded cheese (Swiss, cheddar, smoked Gouda, fontina, etc)
- 4-6 hard-boiled eggs
- 1/4 cup diced ham (optional)
- 3 cups mashed potatoes
- Pinch of turmeric (omit if using Yukon Gold potatoes)
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (regular is fine too)
- Fresh chopped chives for garnish
*I cut the kernels off of 1 ear of corn instead of the celery
Make the béchamel by starting with sautéing the onion, garlic and celery (or in this case, corn kernels) in the butter until the onion begins to soften, but not brown; stir in the chile powder. Using whole milk or half-and-half, make a medium béchamel from this base. If you are gluten free, use potato starch or rice flour to thicken the béchamel instead of wheat flour. Do not use arrowroot with dairy; it is textually unpleasant. Set aside. Combine the turmeric, chile powder and mashed potatoes; set aside.
In a small-ish well-greased casserole dish, break up the cooked fish into largish chunks, covering the bottom completely. Sprinkle with the shredded cheese, reserving about 1/3 cup for the topping. Lay on the diced ham, if using. Pour the béchamel over, spreading it to the edge of the dish, completely covering the fish and friends. Lay slices of hard-boiled egg over the sauce. Top with the mashed potatoes, spreading the mixture smooth and covering the egg layer completely. Sprinkle with the cheese, and dust with smoked paprika; cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour or up to 4 hours.
Place the casserole in the oven; turn the oven to 350°F. Bake the casserole for about 30-40 minutes or until the mixture is bubbly and hot. Remove from the oven; let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with the chives and scoop out desired portions.
You can make this using many different flavor combinations. Try these:
- Green chiles, mushrooms, Swiss cheese, lime zest, corn kernels
- Orange zest, sautéed fennel, basil, fontina cheese
- Lime zest and juice, cumin, honey and mashed sweet potatoes
- Shrimp, cooked carrots, mushrooms, lemon zest, thyme
Neptune’s Shepherd’s Pie Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2015. All Rights Reserved.
This is how the whole thing goes together. It’s pretty simple, really: Sauté the onion, garlic, mushrooms and corn in butter and proceed as suggested for the recipe for béchamel sauce in an earlier post. This was about a medium sauce. Break the fish into pieces in the greased casserole dish. Toss on the cheese and chiles, pour the sauce over and spread it to the edge, top it with hard-boiled egg slices and then the mashed potatoes (I stirred a pinch of turmeric into the potatoes for color). Smooth out the potatoes with an off-set spreader (like frosting a cake), sprinkle on some cheese, cover the casserole with plastic and refrigerate it until you are ready to bake it. At the end of baking, if the color isn’t as nice as I think it should be, I turn the broiler on for a few seconds just to brown it up nicely. Pull it out of the oven, let it stand for about 5 minutes and then enjoy!
This works very well as a dinner party dish, as it benefits from being made ahead and can then be popped into the oven, when you make the salad and life for the hostess, is easy! Truth be told, I have used leftover chicken instead of the fish. That too, is lovely, but it makes Neptune lose his scales, just to think about it!