Captain Marden’s Creamed Finnan Haddie: Old School Comfort

Ok, Who here loves finnan haddie? Who here knows what finnan haddie is? If you’re not from New England or the Canadian Maritimes, you get a pass but I have to admit I didn’t know what it was until I was in my twenties.

It was my late friend Jim Lynch who first told me about this traditional dish. As a Boston born Irish-American, with deep roots in Nova Scotia fishing, Jim’s mother made finnan haddie for breakfast on Sunday mornings. Once Jim told me of this wonderful mix of smoked haddock poached in milk and served over potatoes, I had to seek it out.

It did not take me long to find local restaurants that still served finnan haddie on special. When I lived in Rockport, Massachusetts, I got on the “finnan haddie list” at the old-school Ellen’s Harborside Restaurant. They used to call you on nights they had it to make sure their regulars got first dibs, and for good reason…it did not last long.

Finnan Haddie is ultimate maritime comfort food, and not something I’ve ever made. So when I saw that Captain Marden’s had a frozen entree, I got the entree for two version…but just for me.

What is Finnan Haddie?

Finnan haddie originates from Scotland, where they prefer haddock to cod, just like here in Gloucester. The name comes from the Findon area, where the practice of smoking haddock over peat is a long standing tradition – although there is another competing origin story. Scots and Scots-Irish immigrants to the Canadian Maritimes and New England brought the practice, but probably not the peat.

Finnan haddie is cold-smoked haddock, so it has to be fully cooked before consumption. The common way, at least here in New England, is to poach it milk or a cheese sauce and serve it over potatoes. For some families it is the traditional Christmas breakfast.

However, while researching this subject I learned that there are more ways to serve finnan haddie. Apparently, smoked haddock (finnan haddie) is the key part of the famous Arnold Bennett omelette, originally from London’s Savoy Grill (which Gordon Ramsay now calls a Souffle).

Captain Marden’s Creamed Finnan Haddie

Captain Marden’s line of frozen entrees has a larger size, made for sharing. At about $15, that seems like a pretty good deal for what you get. After taking out of the cardboard box the oven safe container held over a pound of smoked finnan haddie and sauce.

I reached out to Captain Marden’s before writing this and they told me they use an old family recipe. Yes, there really is a Captain Marden and this is the recipe his grandmother, Gay Locke and his mother Winifred Marden used to make. That certainly raised my excitement level. Nothing against test kitchens, but mom and especially grandma, knows best.

A look at the ingredients showed smoked haddock, fish stock and milk at the top of the list.

When it was time to cook I just followed the instructions on the box. Although you can microwave this frozen entree, Captain Marden’s recommends heating in the oven at 350F for 45-55 minutes.

A little over 45 minutes in the oven had the finnan haddie hot and bubbling, with a nice aroma of smoked fish. I served the it over sliced new potatoes that I sauteed in butter and spooned the creamy cheese sauce over it all.

How Was Captain Marden’s Creamed Finnan Haddie?

Captain Marden's Finnan Haddie over potatoes

This is an absolute winner. I’ve had a couple of Captain Marden’s frozen entrees, and this is by far my favorite. Their finnan haddie was warm, smokey, and decadent.

They do not skimp on the haddock, which had a really nice smoke to it. The cheese sauce was velvety but not too thick and did not overpower the fish. There was also plenty of it, I had more than enough to cover the fish and potatoes.

One box of Captain Marden’s Creamed Finnan Haddie For Two has plenty of silky, delicious comfort food to share. Serving this over a big pile of mashed potatoes on a cold winter night sounds like a real treat. I will certainly buy this again and maybe even stash a couple in the freezer!