I first had Cullen Skink at the Cafe Gandolfi (http://www.cafegandolfi.com/) in Glasgow, and immediately fell in love. Two nights in Glasgow and I managed two bowls of Cullen Skink. Two years later I tried it in John O'Groats and Thurso, and finally at a fish restaurant in London. My memories tell me that the Cafe Gandolfi is the version that was above and beyond all the others.
Tonight, I decided to try to recreate this soup/chowder. Earlier this week I had brined and smoked some pollock using alder wood. Yes, I know this soup should be made with smoked haddock, but pollock is cheap in Boston right now and so that is what I smoked.
The results were excellent. Served with pain à l'ancienne from the Bread Baker's Apprentice [page 191] for a complete meal. I took a bit from this recipe, a bit from that, and tried to remember the flavor.
2 cups fish fumée [I used Kitchen Basics]
8 oz Yukon gold potatoes, cubed
2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons butter
1.5 oz shallots, thinly sliced
healthy pinch of saffron
1/2 lb smoked fish
1/3 cup parsley, leaves and stems separated
2 tablespoons heavy cream
salt/pepper to taste
Place fish stock, bay leaf and potatoes into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cover pot and let simmer to cook the potatoes.
Meanwhile, take a larger saucepan [wide bottom is good, this will be the pot you assemble the soup in], melt the butter and add the shallots and saffron. Sautée the shallots at a low temperature until they are soft and translucent. When done, scrape out the shallot mixture into a small holding bowl.
While the shallots are wilting, warm milk with parsley stems.
By now the potatoes should be done. Strain the potatoes letting the fish stock drain into the larger saucepan. Place large chunks of the smoked fish into the stock over medium low heat.
Put the potatoes back into their original pan, add the shallots and mash the ingredients.
Remove the fish when it is warmed through assuming it is already cooked, remove when it is fully cooked. Store on a plate covered.
Add the mashed potato and strained milk to the fish stock. Finely chop the parsley and add to the soup. Cook soup over low heat for ten minutes, tasting to adjust the salt and pepper. Using a blender or immersion blender, blend the mixture into a smooth soup. Crumble and add the fish and cream. Let simmer for 5 more minutes. Serve in warmed bowls.
Serves 4 as first course, 2 as main.
This was wonderful but isn't everyday food. In the future, I would increase the amount of potato and decrease the butter. The finishing cream is totally decadent and could be eliminated completely. And finally, it might be possible to change the stock/milk ratio to 3:1.
But for a special occasion, I would make it again as above.