St. Patrick’s Day is tomorrow and in honor of my family’s Irish heritage I wanted to cook something rooted in Irish cuisine. Yes, Ireland has a cuisine and it’s based on farm fresh dairy, meat, seafood and vegetables. In my heart and mind Ireland is an original in the farm to table concept that is so trendy in our modern world. If you’ve never tasted potatos fresh from a farm that have been mashed with fresh dairy milk and local sea salt – well it’s one of the finest things in the world – and the simplest.
My husband and I traveled to Ireland on our honeymoon and I carry many lovely memories of that trip. One of those memories is of the two of us eating in a cozy local pub with friendly service, the lyrical sound of Irish accents and music all around us and this lovely seafood gratin of cod, salmon, and potatos in a cream sauce.
I decided to use cod, salmon and shrimp in this recipe along with roasted sweet potatoes instead of regular potatos. I’m not afraid to experiment with different ingredients and I really thought that sweet potatoes would add a depth of flavor along with added nutrients. I wasn’t wrong!
First I roasted the peeled and cubed sweet potatos with onions, garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil.
While the sweet potatos roasted I prepared the bechamel sauce. I melted butter in a saucepan, added salt, pepper, and fresh garlic. I sautéed the garlic for a minute until it browned and then whisked in wheat flour and then 2%milk and a splash of white wine to make a white sauce. While it simmered I added a bit of Parmesan as well.
Next I prepared the fish and shrimp. I had jumbo shrimp so I peeled and deveined them, then cut them in half. I cut the salmon and cod into bite sized pieces and then mixed them with garlic, lemon zest, salt, pepper, green onions, and olive oil.
I buttered a casserole pan and mixed together the seafood and sweet potato mixes. I poured enough sauce to coat plus some extra to make it nice and bubbly. I scattered thin shavings of Dubliner cheese over top and put in a 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes.
Irish Seafood Gratin:
1/2 pound Jumbo shrimp peeled, deveined and cut in half (or smaller shrimp kept whole)
6 ounces wild caught American salmon cut into bite sized pieces
6 ounces cod or other wild American whitefish cut into bite sized pieces
1 large sweet potato peeled and cut into small chunks
1/2 large sweet onion peeled and cut into small pieces
2 green onions sliced
3-4 cloves minced garlic
1 1/2 cups low fat (2%) milk
2-3 Tablespoons dry white wine (or sherry would be nice also)
1/4 cup Parmesan
1/3 block Dubliner cheese sliced or shaved thinly
4 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
4 Tablespoons wheat flour ( or white, but I like the toastier flavor of wheat)
zest of one lemon
salt and pepper to taste (about 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper more or less)
First mix the sweet potatoes, onions, 1/3 of the garlic, and olive oil together on a sheet pan. Roast in a 450 degree oven for about 20-30 minutes until lightly browned. While the potatoes are cooking make the sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add another 1/3 of the garlic and salt and pepper. Simmer until garlic is lightly browned, then whisk in the flour. Whisk over heat for a couple of minutes and then slowly whisk in the milk and then the white wine. Whisk occasionally until it comes up to a simmer and then add the Parmesan and whisk until bubbly and thick. Let it simmer, stirring occasionally for about ten minutes.
Mix the fish and shrimp with the rest of the garlic, lemon zest, a smidge of salt and pepper and green onions.
In a buttered casserole dish mix together the fish/shrimp and sweet potatoes. Add enough sauce to cover and a bit extra so it’s bubbly and juicy – about 3/4 of the total. Stir and then scatter the Dubliner cheese over top. Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 25-30 minutes until lightly brown and bubbly.
This seafood gratin tastes like a densely calorie laden dish but it’s actually quite balanced. The two percent milk is a healthier option than cream and much silkier than skim milk and the butter base gives it a rich taste. The cheese is a bit decadent but with all of the other healthy ingredients such as sweet potatos, low fat milk, and the healthy fats from salmon the effect is negligble. I love how flavorful and decadent this tastes with the contrast of the lean whitefish and shrimp with the rich salmon, the bechamel sauce and toasted cheese and the savory sweetness of the roasted sweet potatoes. I hope you enjoy my take on a sweet lyrical memory of my honeymoon in Ireland. It’s all about love!