"Not So" Traditional Scottish Cullen Skink

"Not So" Traditional Scottish Cullen Skink

Ever since my last trip to Scotland about two years ago, I have been in search of a simple product called Finnan Haddie, or smoked haddock, for my Cullen Skink recipe, but my search has been to no avail. Us Americans are resistant to change, and we have already found our favorite smoked fish. I’m sure it was brought to a vote, given our unwavering democracy and all, but I certainly wasn’t notified. Yes sir, we love our smoked salmon on bagels, canapes, benedicts, you name it, smoked salmon to the rescue. Nope, no room for another smoked fish in the grocery store’s refrigerated cold fish section. I mean where would we even put another smoked fish next to the 147 different brands and types of smoked salmon? There just isn’t any room for it.

So being the stubborn and rebellious guy that I am, I cold smoked my own last year, here is the recipe, and if I’m being honest, it is quite the time-consuming pain in the ass. But if you want a traditional Cullen Skink, this is our burden to bear. If you are not an artisanal fish smoker, and have no desire to do this yourself, I get it, and don’t blame you. So, to substitute, I would suggest using both fresh haddock, and smoked salmon in order to get that wonderful subtle smokey flavor that any true skink must possess. Smoking your own haddock really does come out very good, and is mostly inactive cooking. You simply use a cocktail smoker to pump smoke into a Ziplock bag every 30 minutes for about 4 hours. I digress. This traditional Scottish dish, is the very definition of holiday comfort food. It’s stick to your bones creamy, salty, smokey, and delicious.



  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup parsley sprigs, leaves and stalks separated, more leaves for garnish
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pound smoked haddock fillet, or ½ lb fresh haddock, ½ lb smoked salmon
  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • ½ lb chunky mashed potatoes
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Warm, crusty Italian bread for serving



  1. Cold smoke haddock using this recipe if you are so inclined. Otherwise put your smoked salmon and haddock in a Ziplock bag and refrigerate for two hours or overnight.
  2. Put the milk, parsley stalks, bay leaf, and the whole piece of haddock/smoked salmon into a large saucepan.
  3. Finely chop the parsley leaves. Set aside. 
  4. Bring the milk to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Lower the heat to low simmer for about 3 minutes.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat. Set aside for 5 minutes so the herbs, haddock, and salmon infuse their flavors into the milk.
  6. Remove the haddock/salmon from the milk with a slotted spatula. Set aside.
  7. Strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer. Discard the herbs.
  8. In another large saucepan over medium heat, add the butter and the onion. Cook gently until the butter melts and the onions become translucent, about 5 minutes. Be careful not to fry the onion.
  9. Add the infused milk and the potato to the onion-butter mixture. Stir until the potatoes dissolve and the soup thickens slightly. You still want some small chunks of potatoes.
  10. Flake the smoked haddock/Salmon into bite-size chunks, discarding any bones. Add to the soup.
  11. Lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Add the chopped parsley and cook until the haddock is warmed through, about 5 minutes. Don't over stir, because you still want some nice chunks of fish.
  12. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Be careful with the salt, because the salmon brings its own salt to the party.
  13. Garnish the soup with the reserved parsley leaves and more freshly ground black pepper, and serve immediately.
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