Ann Cullen of Fullerton is a great cook and hostess and living proof that you don’t have to use complicated recipes to serve delicious food.
Case in point: her crazy simple fish pie from Jamie Oliver’s Quick and Easy 5-Ingredient Meal (Flatiron Books, $35).
“We bought a camper about six months before COVID,” she recalls. “I wanted to cook, but there is very little cooking space in the camper. I had to find recipes that didn’t use 10,000 ingredients and too many pots and pans.
“I started watching Jamie Oliver’s show and thought I have to get this book. This is exactly what I need,” she said. “He does a lot of these one-off deals. What I make all the time for company is this fish because everyone raves about it.
Kalen usually substitutes smoked haddock with Chilean sea bass, if he can find it, or halibut. “Any soft fish would do,” she advised.
Her cheese of choice is a blend of cheddar and mozzarella.
“You do everything in one pan. I love my cast iron skillet. I use it for almost everything. So I got his book because I had that pan,” she said. “I took it camping. I couldn’t live without it. You don’t have to do anything with it except use it. If you don’t use it, it rusts. And it doesn’t have to be expensive. I got mine at Walmart and it stays beautiful and cleans up in a minute. You need to oil it when you use it for the first time. You can use it on the stove or oven, campfire or your grill.
“I usually serve the fish with some salad with some citrus. The fillet dough – you tear it up and wrap it around the fish, so you don’t have to be precise with it, but make sure it doesn’t dry out. Just keep it covered with a damp cloth,” Kalen recommended. “You can get six pieces of fish in one cast iron skillet, which is more than 14 ounces in the recipe.”
Kalen has had similar success with other recipes in the book.
“We love his easy sausage carbonara and I made some of the desserts,” she said. “Everything is so easy. Sometimes you look at a recipe and it has 25 ingredients. I don’t want to go out and buy all these things.
The last time Callen made the fish dish, she invited her cousin, a wine connoisseur, over for dinner, she said, “I told him I was making Chilean sea bass, and he recommended a raw Chardonnay. He thought the oak would beat the sea bass.
“My cousin loves to shop at Hi-Time Wineries in Costa Mesa,” Cullen added. “I highly recommend your readers to go there. The winery is so much fun to walk through. They take you through this maze underground – that’s the coolest thing. They have very expensive wines, but you can get absolutely delicious wines for under $20.
Judy Barth Cansigor of Fullerton is the author of Jewish Cooking and The Perfect Passover Cookbook. Her website is cookingjewish.com.
CRAZY SIMPLE FISH PIE
From Jamie Oliver’s Quick and Easy 5 Ingredient Meal. Oliver doesn’t include pantry staples in his five ingredients like olive oil and black pepper in this recipe. Yield: 4 servings.
14 ounces unbleached smoked haddock, without the skin
2 bunches green onions
8 ounces baby spinach
5 ounces cheddar cheese
4 sheets of phyllo dough
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl, cover the fish with boiling water. Let soak while you chop and roughly chop the green onions, placing them in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Stir and fry for 2 minutes, then arrange spinach on top, let it dry and turn off the heat.
2. Pour 6 tablespoons of the soaking water over the spinach, drain the fish, break up the pieces and arrange them evenly around the pan. Finely grate over most of the cheese; season well with pepper. Quickly layer the filo on top, rolling it around the fish and up the sides of the pan, tearing the last sheet on top. Grate the last piece of cheese, drizzle with 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil, and bake for 15 to 17 minutes, or until golden and crispy.