Gratin au Poisson Fumé – Fish Pie (from The Little Paris Kitchen, Khoo 2012)

I am always tempted by fish pie on a menu, and I always wimp out because I don’t want to fall asleep in front of a whole restaurant/pub/café and need to be carried home by my friends.  Fish pie (in England, fish pie isn’t a pastry pie, it’s a potato gratin) is the most soporific food known to man.  Are you an insomniac?  You won’t be able to count to your third sheep with some fish pie inside you.  Are you a Victorian kidnapper?  Buying fish pie will attract less suspicion than buying chloroform.  Are you a vet?  Sedate that tiger with a fish pie instead of a tranquilizer dart.  On a date?  Step away from the fish pie, unless you want your date to see you dribbling and occasionally snorting yourself half-awake.  You get the picture.

So I looked into this because I am a nerd, and the reason fish pie makes you so sleepy, other than because it is full of the things that make you happy, calm and relaxed (that is why I crave fish pie like I crave chocolate), is because it is rich in protein (fish and cheese) and potato; both are abundant with a particular amino acid (tryptophan) which gets converted into serotonin and melatonin.  Serotonin is the hippy hormone that mellows you out, and melatonin is the hormone which stimulates your sleep-wake cycle – it’s released naturally every night to remind you to go to bed – so forgive your brain for misinterpreting your selfish food-induced signal that it’s time for a little shut-eye.  Science lesson over.

This was my first recipe from The Little Paris Kitchen, which my boyfriend’s mother praised for its authenticity, and it didn’t disappoint.  It was the easy, perfect, ultimate comfort food – cheesy and smokey and potatoey and totally, wraps-its-arms-around-you, deliciously dreamy.  You need this plate of food in your life.

Fish gratin 4

Like a delicious cheesy temazepam pie.

Need this (for 2)

4-5 medium potatoes (approx 375g) / 15g butter / 15g plain flour / 250ml milk / 1/4 onion / 1 bay leaf / pinch ground nutmeg / salt & pepper / 100g smoked haddock / handful parsley / handful grated Gruyere

Do this

peel & quarter potatoes / cover with boiling water in large pan / simmer 15-20 mins / take off heat & drain & set aside / oven 180C / melt butter in large pan / add flour / beat until smooth paste / cool 2 mins / add milk slowly whisking constantly / back on heat / add onion (unchopped) + bay leaf / simmer 10 mins whisking often / remove onion + bay leaf / add nutmeg + season & cool (pic 1) / chop or flake haddock into small chunks / add fish + most chopped parsley to sauce (pic 2) / slice potatoes half centimetre thick / add potatoes to sauce / into baking dish & top with cheese (pic 3) / oven 20 mins until golden / rest of chopped parsley to garnish

Fish gratin 1

Pic 1: Cooling, seasoned bechamel.

Fish gratin 2

Pic 2: Starting to look like fish pie.

Fish gratin 3

Pic 3: Now that’s what I’m talking about.