Wahoo!: Valentine for a Special Couple

Wahoo Pie

Today I wanted to make a special dinner for two people who aren't actually here in Hawaii, but who live in our hearts and thoughts everyday. We've begged, pleaded and cajoled them to visit here from cold and snowy (especially right now!!) Maine, but alas, to no avail. I'm sure they find the usual recipes on these pages a bit odd, and maybe even downright strange, and that's okay because they love me anyway. But today I wanted to send them a Valentine's wish for a very special anniversary.

I looked for a Maine version of this recipe, certain that it would be a staple there. But of the 6 Maine cookbooks I consulted, not one had a recipe for Fish Pie. I found that a bit astonishing, to be honest, because this dish has so many things for New Englanders to love: sweet white-meat fish, mashed potatoes, and a light cream sauce. T describes it as a Maine-style fish stew with mashed potatoes on top. For those of you familiar with Shepherd's Pie, or Cumberland Pie, you can think of this as a marine version of that, too.

I’ve had to rely instead on the recipe we used, and on which we were tested on so often, at the Leith’s School. I’ve adapted the methods a bit (sorry, Claire, I haven’t mashed potatoes through a sieve since 2000!), but the recipe is tried and true. One thing I like about this recipe is its method of poaching the fish in seasoned milk. The onion and bay leaf help to cut down any fishy smell, and in turn the poaching adds flavor to the milk, which is then used to make the bechamel sauce that will bathe the fish in creamy goodness. This was made with Wahoo, a popuar local fish also known as Ono (and it IS ono, too), and corn. It’s one of T’s favorites, too, so he gets a second early Valentine’s dinner — he’ll eat some for you both, Mom and Dad!

For Steve and Gladys, this one's for you! Thank you for all your love and support, and for sharing yourselves and one of the most wonderful of guys in the world with me. Happy Anniversary, late but with all our love!

*** This recipe is joining the heart-shaped savory pies we made earlier for zorra’s “Heart for your Valentine” event at 1x umrühren bitte. The event closes on Friday, the 15th, but zorra is updating the round-up as entries come in, so if you want ideas to tickle your Valentine’s fancy, there are already dozens of entries on-line. Check out the round-up here or by clicking the banner in the sidebar. ***

Wahoo fish pie

(adapted from
The Leith's Cookery Bible)
Mis en place:
1. Mashed Potatoes (for topping) (or use your favorite recipe)
1.5 lb (675g) floury potato (e.g., Russett)
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
1/3 cup + 2
TBL. (100 ml) milk, room temperature
TBL. (55g) butter, room temperature
pinch fresh nutmeg (about 3 passes on a grater)

Peel potatoes, cut in quarters, and place in steamer. Steam over medium-high steam for 15-20 minutes, or until cooked through.

Place milk, butter, salt and pepper in large bowl. Transfer hot potatoes to bowl, season with salt and peper, and immediately mash or whip to fulffy consistency. Add nutmeg, if using, and stir to mix through.
(Actually, when I make mashed potatoes for fish pie, I usually just mash the potatoes with a bit of
sea salt and ground black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil because there is so much butter, milk and cream in the sauce, it is too rich for my blood. But for company or a special occasion, I'll splurge on the butter and milk in the potatoes too.)

2. Poach Fish:
1.5-2lb. (675-900g) haddock, cod, wahoo, mahimahi, or other firm white fish, with skin
1-3/4 cup (425ml) whole or low-fat milk (don't recommend using non-fat)
½ onion, sliced
8-10 peppercorns
3-4 small bay leaves
sea salt and fresh ground pepper

Pre-heat oven to 350F/180C.

In small oven-proof pan with deep sides, lay onion slices, peppercorns and bay leaves in pan. Place fish, skin side up (this is supposed to further protect your fish from drying out) on top of onions. Pour milk over fish, season with salt, and cover with parchment or wax paper. Cook in pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until fish is opaque (cooked through). Cooking time will depend on thickness of fish.

Remove fish from pan, and keep covered to retain heat. Strain milk to remove solids,
but KEEP MILK to make Bechamel Sauce.

3. Make Bechamel Sauce:
2 TBL. (30g) unsalted butter
1/3 cup (30g) flour
Reserved Milk from Poached Fish
2 TBL. heavy cream (or double cream)

Melt butter in saucepan, and immediately add flour. Stirring constantly, cook together for one minute. Add 2 TBL. of Reserved Milk, and whisk until milk is completely absorbed. Add 2 more TBL. of Reserved Milk, and stir to incorporate. Continue to add increasing amounts of milk to slurry in pan, and whisk well. Bring sauce slowly to a boil over medium heat, then add cream and remove from heat. Taste, and season with salt and pepper.

4. Assemble and Bake:
5 large hard-boiled eggs, peeled; OR 1 cup ( g) peas, green beans or veggie of your choice
Small bunch of flat-leaf parsley,
minced (about 2 TBL.)

Place 6-cup oven-proof casserole on baking sheet. Flake fish in large chunks into casserole. Add eggs, if using, or vegetables. Sprinkle with parsley. Pour hot sauce over all. (Can be cooled and refrigerated overnight up to this point, to top with potatoes and bake later. Lay wax or parchment paper directly on surface of sauce to prevent "skin" from forming.)
Traditional criss-cross patternPiped mashed potato topping

Spread a layer of mashed potates over fish and, using a fork, make a traditional criss-cross pattern over the top (photo on left). Alternatively, pipe mashed potatoes in attractive pattern over fish (heart-shaped pan).

Drizzle with olive oil, and and place casserole on baking sheet into middle shelf in oven. Bake for 10 minutes, or until filling is hot throughout. Test filling with metal needle or skewer to make certain it is hot. If potatoes start to brown before filling is properly heated, cover lightly with foil/aluminium.

If you're baking a pie that was begun 24 hours earlier and refriegerated: Cover with foil/aluminium and bake for 30 minutes. Test filling as outlined above. Remove foil and continue baking another 10 minutes or until potatoes lightly brown.

Serve with salad, and a dry (Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris) or mildly sweet (Riesling or White Zinfandel) white wine.

(This recipe also complies with the GDC, so it shouldn't trouble my dad's gout. More gout-friendly recipes)