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Shrimp Pudding - from English Puddings: Sweet & Savoury

ShrimpAnother variation of shrimp pudding, from a cookbook by Mary Norwalk called English Puddings: Sweet and Savoury (London 1981), is styled fish pudding even though it includes some shrimp. It differs from the other two recipes in omitting the bread altogether and using parsleyed white sauce with but a single egg. The texture is creamy rather than custardy: This one is closer to a batter (there is flour in the parsley sauce) than a bread pudding. You will want some boiled new potatoes or toast with this.

-1 lb cod, haddock, hake, halibut or Pollack
-1 teaspoon salt
-½ cup flour
-white pepper
-1 beaten egg
-2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
-½ cup parsley sauce
-¼ lb peeled raw shrimp (cut into 1 inch chunks if more than an inch in curl)
-a little butter for greasing a pan

Preheat the oven to 350°.

  1. Puree the fish in a food processor (if you do not have one skip this dish; it will be hell), then add the remaining ingredients except for the shrimp.
  2. Beat the mixture with an electric mixer or, if you are lucky enough to have a countertop KitchenAid, use the whisk attachment for the same purpose, until the mixture becomes aerated and nearly peaky.
  3. Gently fold the shrimp into the fish mixture.
  4. Grease a ceramic pudding basin if you have one (most Americans do not, and an ovenproof bowl or casserole is a fine substitute), pour in the pudding ‘batter’ and cover the basin or bowl with a lightly greased sheet of aluminum foil pleated along the center to allow for expansion (which may not occur, but do not worry).
  5. Place the pudding in a pan of water (a ‘bain marie’) that rises halfway up the basin or bowl and bake it for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until the center just sets (punch a toothpick through the foil): Be careful not to overcook the pudding.
  6. Run a pastry knife or rubber spatula, or run the pastry knife followed by the rubber spatula, around the circumference of the pudding and turn it out onto a large plate (like a charger) or platter; it may collapse, which is not as impressive but which tastes just as good.
  7. Serve with more parsley sauce in a pitcher (aka ‘jug’ for the benefit of British readers).

More notes:

-Parsley sauce is just basic white sauce laced with... parsley, and despite its simplicity is bracing.

-A reliable version of white sauce with variations recurs throughout On Top of Spaghetti, the delightful dance through pasta by Rhode Island’s own Johanne Killeen and George Germon (New York 2006). They scald 3 cups of milk or a combination of milk and stock, melt 3 Tablespoons of unsalted butter over medium heat, whisk in 3 Tablespoons of flour for about two minutes (to combine the two and take the raw edge off the flour) before slowly pouring (but quickly whisking) the milk or mixture into the roux. Use Wondra (see Things We Like elsewhere in the practical). Reduce the sauce to a bare simmer and let it cook until it reduces just past the thickness of heavy cream (or less for sauce, but you want the thicker medium to bind the pudding). Stir in a little salt and some white pepper if you like and, boom, good sauce. It becomes parsley sauce if you stir some chopped parsley leaves, something like ½ to ¾ of a cup, into the scalded milk before making the roux.

-The proportions are reliable; Mrs. Ayrton uses the same ratio in Good Simple Cookery. (London 1958; 135) Change the amount of sauce you need to prepare by going 2-2-2 or 4-4-4 instead of 3-3-3, and so forth. No matter the quantity, “[t]he result should be a perfect white sauce, which is good in itself and which is the foundation of many other sauces. The whole making should take you only 8 to 10 minutes.... A tablespoon or two of cream, stirred in when the sauce has cooled a little, gives a rich smooth texture. Do not let it boil again after this.” (Ayrton 135) Like us, she notes that “[a] sauce which is to be poured or served separately should be a little thinner than a sauce which is to coat or mask a dish....” (Ayrton 135)

-Always scald the milk before making this sauce; it helps prevent curdling.

-You can make the sauce a few hours ahead to avoid preparation panic if guests are descending, but remember to check the surface for skin before incorporating the sauce into your pudding (or, in the event, lasagna).

-The Editor believes that infusing the sauce with herbs is transformative; Killeen and Germon employ the trick for some of their recipes. It is easy but requires forethought. All you need to do is throw the fresh or dried herb or herbs of your choice into the pot with the milk before you scald it. Refrigerate the herby milk overnight, then strain and reheat it before incorporating it into your sauce. Killeen and Germon use a tiny proportion of herb to liquid; for example, a single sprig of marjoram or a quarter teaspoon of dried oregano for three cups of liquid. They do not steep the flavored milk overnight either. We use at least double or triple their amount of herbs and like to combine herbs too; several sprigs of parsley with a good teaspoon of dried thyme--and pinches of cayenne and white pepper--is a favorite mix.

-A simple alternative appears in The Prawn Cocktail Years by Lindsey Bareham and Simon Hopkinson (London 1997). Despite the jokey title and poor reputation of British food during the shrimp cocktail era, this is a useful and enjoyable cooking guide. Bareham and Hopkinson blanch about half a cup of flat parsley leaves (no stems; they can be bitter, especially after blanching), shock them in icewater and squeeze as much water from the greens as you can using paper towel. Then simply bring the parsley to a boil in ¾ cup of heavy cream with 2 oz unsalted butter, salt and white pepper. They puree the sauce to give it a green uniformity but that, strictly speaking, is unnecessary and may be undesirable; the white sauce flecked with green looks nice too. If you do want a puree, be careful: Go easy on the blending or processing to prevent the sauce from separating due to the dreaded centrifuge effect.

-You probably want the heftier flour-thickened version within the fish and shrimp pudding itself.

-Caper sauce is good too, and good with the fish and shrimp pudding. Substitute about ¼ cup of small capers for the parsley. They obviously do not need blanching.

-These puddings are not stodge but neither are they light, so serve a salad with them for a contrast in texture and temperature. We offer a suggestion; somehow citrus in savory dishes is life affirming from the onset of the holidays through the winter months.