Welcome to Week Four of the Ten Canadian Provinces of New Recipe Tuesday! For those of you that follow my food journey, you know that I have been absent for a couple of weeks. My world got a little flipped around right after Thanksgiving and I have been dealing with that ever since. My 93 year old father had some health issues and he did not bounce back enough for him to return to his assisted living. Some quick work ensued and he has now been moved into a nursing home. I can report that he is adjusting to the change and I am now working to clean out his assisted living apartment. To say the least, it has been a stressful couple of weeks.
But alas, I continue with the Canadian Provinces and this week we explore the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, positioned on the far eastern coast of Canada. The Province is actually made up of two parts, the island of Newfoundland and the mainland portion called Labrador, separated by the Strait of Belle Isle. It is the farthest eastern piece of land in all of North America.
One note that I will make. When I started this Canadian journey, I decided that I would do them in alphabetical order. If you check the list, you will see that I have skipped New Brunswick. I actually cooked a recipe for NB, but just haven’t written the post yet. I promise I will insert that one shortly!
When I went looking for a recipe for Newfoundland, I found that following the history and reason for its settlement by Europeans directed me. You see, this area of the Atlantic was once so abundant with cod that that one report claimed that “the sea…is swimming with fish, which can be taken not only with the net but in baskets let down with a stone.” It is sad that today, the cod industry has been nearly destroyed due to over fishing. Most of the cod we eat today is from the Pacific Northwest, yet the province still prepares many dishes using this once abundant fish.
The dish that I decided to make is called Cod au Gratin, which breaks all the rules that I have ever learned about eating fish; mainly that it is prepared in a béchamel sauce, and then covered in cheddar cheese and crushed crackers. Seriously, how could this be something so near and dear to the locals there? I was so intrigued that I just had to try it.
And you know what? It is actually pretty good. Cod is such a mild and hardy fish that it holds its own against the richness of the cream sauce and cheese. I am from an Irish family and it sort of reminded me of creamed salt cod that I ate as a child. Same white sauce, same fish. It is very rich. You really can only eat a scoop of it and it fills you right up. But on a cold night with a fresh green vege side, it hit the spot.
I give this one an A-, because no one else in my house would even try it. But I liked it and I guess I will be eating the leftovers for the next couple of days. If you are looking for something really different, give this one a try. You might be surprised at how oddly tasty it is.
Thanks for sticking with me and stopping by. See you next time in New Brunswick (I promise to get that one done)!
Cod au Gratin
- 2 pounds fresh cod fillets
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- ¼ cup flour
- 2 cups whole or 2% milk
- 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
- Salt and pepper to season
- ¼ cup shredded parmesan
- 1 tsp tarragon
- 1 ½ cups shredded mild cheddar cheese
- 1 cup cracker crumbs (I used Ritz)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Preheat oven to 350°F and place cod fillets in 9×9 baking dish and cook for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven, drain any excess liquid and tear the pieces of cod a little to break up. Continue with recipe.
- Meanwhile, scald the milk in a small saucepan for about 4-5 minutes until just under the boiling point.
- In a medium saucepan add the butter and flour and cook together for 2 minutes. Slowly pour in the scalded milk whisking constantly.
- Cook until the sauce begins to thicken. Add the lemon zest, Dijon mustard, tarragon and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the Parmesan cheese just before pouring onto the fish.
- Pour the sauce over the broken up fish. Stir to coat the fish. Top with the cheddar cheese.
- Mix the cracker crumbs with the olive oil and sprinkle over the cheese. (You can add a little extra tarragon to the crumbs if you like, about ½ tsp). Bake for 25-30 minutes at 350°F until bubbling and the top has evenly browned.