Recipe: Fill the kettle and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, tear the bread into small rough pieces and set aside, wash and cut the potatoes into small 10mm cubes. Put the cubes into a pan and fill with the hot water, add a pinch of salt and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until done, strain and put to one side. Meanwhile, skin the fish and cut into small chunks. Season with a pinch of salt and set to one side.
Chop the shallots into a small dice and chop the garlic into a fine dice. Cut the bacon into small pieces. Take the leaves off the thyme. Add the bacon, shallot and garlic and thyme to a large saucepan with a tablespoon of light olive oil. Fry for 8 minutes without burning and then add the stock and several generous grindings of pepper, bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes, add the creme fraiche and cook for a further 2 minutes. Take off the heat and keep warm.
Heat another large frying pan and add 20g butter and a tablespoon of light olive oil, when the pan is very hot add the fish and let it settle and go turn golden brown in places, turn over the pieces and continue to cook until the fish is just cooked. Strain the fish and add to the sauce, Squeeze half a lemon over the fish and stir gently – on a low setting, cook just to heat through. Clean the frying pan and add 20g butter and tablespoon of light olive oil. Heat the pan to medium-high add the potatoes and bread and fry, tossing continuously for 5 minutes until golden brown. Drain on kitchen towel. Taste the sauce and and season using more lemon if necessary. Plate the fish on individual plates and overlap the potatoes and croutons.
Tips: This recipe is the basis for a good cream sauce with seafood. Once this is mastered, spin the recipe any way you wish. Give it a Nordic note by using chopped dill, adding Dijon mustard will give it a Continental style. Swap the smoked bacon and use white wine and tarragon for a French style sauce, or for a British sauce use a generous amount of finely chopped parsley.
Optional ingredients: Bay leaves add a good background flavour – add a couple during the onion frying. White wine will add flavour and useful acidity for the fish. Chilli works well with this – use a tablespoon of white wine vinegar if not using wine. See the note below about smoked ingredients. Using stock is important for this recipe. Either use homemade, ready-made from a store, a tin of chicken consomme, or a stock cube to make-up a stock (follow the instructions and adjust extra salt to taste – most cubes are very salty).
Notes: The trick to this recipe is getting smoke into the dish without getting out the smoker. Happily many foods are smoked and these can be used to impart a smoked flavour. Start with smoked bacon. Try to find smoked garlic. One of the fish could also be smoked – such as hot smoked salmon or Finnan haddock. Otherwise try finishing the dish with a smoked cheese.
Finessing the recipe: The dish could be made more cheffy by limiting the portion sizes and scattering the topping over – perhaps with a few small broccoli pieces and peas. Garnish with lemon and parsley.