Big flavor for light soup

This Feb. 10, 2014 photo shows hearty potato, cabbage and smoked fish soup in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead) Show caption
This Feb. 10, 2014 photo shows hearty potato, cabbage and smoked fish soup in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

It’s nearly St. Patrick’s Day, so, our minds turn to corned beef and cabbage. This recipe was inspired by that tradition, but swaps out the corned beef in favor of smoked fish (also incredibly popular in Ireland) in a richly satisfying savory broth.

Smoked fish happens to be one of my favorite “cheating” ingredients. Like bacon, it is a single ingredient that adds outsized oomph to any dish.

Unlike bacon, smoked fish has no saturated fat. Add even a little bit and suddenly the dish becomes the essence of comfort food and your guests think you’re a culinary genius.

My cabbage of choice here is either Napa or savoy. Both are relatively light with a delicate texture. Of course, regular green cabbage also works, as will red cabbage (assuming you don’t mind a pink soup), but be careful not to overcook it.

Now on to the potatoes and the leeks. Easy and cheap to grow, high in minerals and vitamins, and delicious no matter how they’re cooked, potatoes have been a staple in Ireland for hundreds of years. In this recipe, the potatoes absorb the smokiness of the fish and also provide bulk. The leeks add a distinct and subtle flavor all their own, but you can swap in onions, if you have trouble finding leeks.

The liquid is a combination of low-fat milk and chicken stock. In the end, all of the ingredients come together beautifully.

Add a tossed green salad and a pint of Guinness, and you can call it a meal.

Sara Moulton was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years, and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows. She currently stars in public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals” and has written three cookbooks, including “Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners.”

Hearty Potato, Cabbage and Smoked Fish Soup

Serves 4. Recipe is by Sara Moulton.

2 tbls. unsalted butter

1 large leek, white and green parts, medium chopped (about 2 cups)

3 tbls. all-purpose flour

3 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice

2 cups 1 percent milk

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

4 cups shredded Napa or savoy cabbage

1/2 lb. smoked fish fillets (trout, whitefish, haddock or mackerel), skin discarded, fish coarsely chopped

1 tbl. lemon juice

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Thinly sliced scallions, to garnish

Smoked paprika, to garnish

1. In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the leek and cook, stirring, until very soft but not colored, about 10 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Increase the heat to high, add the broth in a stream, whisking, and bring to a boil.

2. Add the potatoes, milk and thyme, then bring the mixture to a simmer. Cover partially and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are just tender, 10-15 minutes. Stir in the cabbage and simmer until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the fish and lemon juice and cook just until the fish is heated through. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and garnish with scallions and a sprinkle of paprika.

Nutrition information per serving: 360 calories (100 calories from fat = 28 percent of total calories); 11 grams fat (6 grams saturated; 0 grams trans fats); 70 milligrams cholesterol; 38 grams carbohydrate (4 grams fiber; 9 grams sugar); 26 grams protein; 380 milligrams sodium.