She worried about what to cook for me when we came to visit her in Northern England a few years ago. Karen had been to my home in Arizona several summers, and I always cooked something from one of my cookbooks for her family.
She finally settled on fish pie, the ultimate British comfort food. I had never had fish pie before, and it was lovely – several kinds of fish and seafood bathed in an herbed white sauce, topped with golden baked mashed potatoes. It was something you serve family, and Karen was telling me that she thought enough of me to serve something made with love.
My heart is heavy today, after hearing that our dear friend Karen passed away. Her cancer came back with a vengeance, taking her away much too young. She leaves behind a doting husband and a loving teenage son.
I know that she’s brightening up the afterlife with her radiant smile and kind heart. I’m so grateful that she was able to leave England in April, when it was dreary and cold, and come to Arizona to soak up the sun. She didn’t know then that the cancer was creeping back. She was looking forward to escaping again to Arizona just next week.
After years of living in sun-deprived northern England, she always looked forward to her vacations in Arizona, not even minding the triple-digit, blazing hot weather. This trip was going to be extra special, as they were going to look for a place to live, eventually moving here full-time. She was a desert girl at heart and loved the dry, hot weather.
I’ll never forget her warm, genuine hospitality, both at her home, and her trips here, always toting something “British” for me. Here is a fish pie recipe from one of the many cookbooks she gave me over the years.
1 teaspoon butter
1 pound mixed fish fillets (salmon, cod, haddock)
4 ounces peeled, deveined medium shrimp
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flour
1-1/4 cups milk (whole or 2%), warmed
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
1-1/2 pounds leftover mashed potatoes
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 2 quart shallow casserole dish. Cut the fish into 1-inch cubes and arrange in a single layer on the bottom of the buttered dish. Arrange the shrimp around the fish. Top with the chopped egg. Set aside while you prepare the sauce.
Melt the 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook until it darkens slightly, about 3 minutes. Whisk in the warmed milk slowly to avoid lumps. Cook until just beginning to thicken, about 3 minutes. Stir in the parsley and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.
Pour sauce over fish, covering completely. Spoon mashed potatoes evenly over the dish. Smooth the top and then fork through a pattern, creating an uneven surface. Bake until the potato is golden brown, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest 5 or 10 minutes before serving.