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‘The secret is in the sauce’

December 8, 2009
By Wendy Monro

I thought I knew lasagna. I believed my mom's lasagna could not be improved upon. She always made it so cheesy and flavorful. She made her own homemade sauce with tons of vegetables. She would even keep a little sauce on the side to pour over the lasagna after it was cooked. This was a genius idea.

Then, Claud made lasagna and I couldn't believe how delicious it tasted.

I wouldn't say it was better than mom's, just different and equally delicious.

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Here are the ingredients used to make fish pie.

There were other ways to make this masterpiece dish.

It was completely different from my mom's recipe. My mom's was vegetarian and Claud's was very meaty.

His Bolognese sauce needed to cook for a whole day and contained a bottle of red wine.

Fact Box

Fish Pie

Prep: 30 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Serves: 6

2 lbs cod (you can use salmon or other fish of your choice)

6 medium potatoes, pealed, chopped and boiled

6 eggs, hard boiled, peeled, shelled and coarsely chopped

14 Tbsp butter, divided

3 1/2 C. milk, divided

2 tsp salt

2 tsp pepper

2 onions, sliced

1 large bunch of parsley, chopped

1 bay leaf

1 C. water

1/2 C. flour

1 Tbsp. anchovy, mashed up

Drain the potatoes, mash them, and add 1/2 C. milk, 6 Tbsp. butter, salt and pepper. Mix up and set the mashed potatoes aside.

Pour the remaining 3 C. milk, 1/2 of the parsley, the bay leaf, and water into a skillet or sauce pan. Bring to boil. Then, turn heat down to bring the liquid to a simmer. Add the fish and allow it to poach in this liquid for ten minutes. Take the poached fish out of the pan and place in an oven safe dish. Cut the fish into pieces in the dish.

Pour the remaining liquid through a sieve into a bowl. In a sauce pan, on medium heat, melt the remaining 8 Tbsp. butter. Add the 3 C. milk. Slowly stir in the flour to form a thick pasty sauce. Slowly stir in the sauce which you sieved from poaching the fish. Add this liquid until the sauce becomes like a thick cream. Add the anchovy, eggs, and the remaining parsley. Mix. Pour this sauce over the fish in the oven safe dish.

Layer the mashed potatoes over the top. Place in a 400 degree preheated oven for 30 minutes. The potatoes should come out browned on top. You can add an egg wash to facilitate the browning. Serve with buttered peas.

But, the real secret, the part of this lasagna which really made it beyond my wildest taste fantasies was the bechamel sauce.

This creamy white sauce made my taste buds sing.

I had never heard of a bechamel sauce before.

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I quickly learned all about it and how to make it myself.

Bechamel is a white sauce made with milk and thickened with a white roux.

In the 19th Century, Chef Antonin Careme of France came up with a list of the four mother sauces from which all great sauces are derived. Bechamel is one of these mother sauces, along with: espagnole, veloute, and allemande.

The bechamel sauce Claud used in the lasagna is combined with tons of cheese. It's not advisable, but I believe I could just eat this sauce with a spoon and on its own and as a soup.

No, I'd probably get a pretty bad stomach ache if I tried this.

The thing I learned from Claud's lasagna is how sauces make any dish beyond fantastic. His lasagna would have still been great with his Bolognese and some melted cheese. But, the creamy cheesy bechamel brought it up a notch.

Sauces are the secret to making food into extraordinary works of culinary art.

For example, yesterday I went to Turner Hall for dinner. My friend Charlie ordered the ribs and everyone at the table agreed that it was their special sauce that really made those ribs incredible.

Sure, a poached egg on a buttered English muffin with a dash of salt and pepper would be a fine breakfast but, add the hollandaise sauce and things change.

Each bite is followed by a moan and a smile. Well, at least, I do this. What would mashed potatoes and turkey be without the gravy? Who would want pasta without a delicious alfredo or marinara sauce (unless you are five years old)?

Not long after my introduction to Claud's lasagna, his mom made me something I had never tried. She announced, tonight I am making fish pie. Ewwww, I thought, fish pie?

I believed that would be gross. I had never heard of it nor had any interest in making something called fish pie. It sounded like punishment for children in an old fairy tale.

Claud told me his mom made this at least once a month for the family when they were growing up.

I thought, how sad for those children.

I envisioned a pie tin filled with gooey fish and topped with a pastry crust.

Well, turns out, I couldn't have been further from the truth.

She sat the huge dish of fish pie on the table, next to a bowl of buttered peas. The top of the pie was smothered in creamy mashed potatoes. Claud served me a portion of the pie along with some peas. I took a bite and smiled.

I tasted flaky white fish, herbs, mashed potatoes and and bechamel sauce. It was absolutely delicious. Every bite brought the smile and the, mmmm.

This week, I made it for the first time and it was as delicious as I remembered. No doubt, the bechamel sauce is the secret to this dish. It blends so well with the fish and potatoes. I realize those Monro children were quite lucky to have this dish once a month.

I made a video teaching you how to make this dish which you can see on my blog: Seriously, you should try it.



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