Being from "away" I have quickly learned that Codfish is a very controversial subject here in Newfoundland. The economy was once based upon fishing for Atlantic Cod, which could get up to 200 pounds in size. By the early 1990's, overfishing (from other countries as well, not just the area fisherman) almost destroyed the Cod population, and the fish was declared endangered. A moratorium was passed on Cod fishing, causing great economic hardship to Newfoundland and Labrador. Our economy here is now recovering thanks to oil, but we get our Cod from Norway as the politicians still debate whether or not to allow Cod fishing in our waters again.
Despite all of this, I have to admit a new found love for Cod. Chess' Fish and Chips is a landmark eatery here with several locations, and they make the best fish and chips you will ever have. Chess' is a tiny and not very attractive dive, often in a strip mall. You wait in a long line (it is a popular place), choose between chips or dressing - Newfoundlanders like their stuffing year round but only call it dressing, and always add savory - never sage. You are suspect, yet seat yourself in the tiny dining area, either at the shiny burgundy vinyl stool at the counter, or at one of the two cafeteria style laminate tables and plastic chairs. You wait, and worry as the oil soaked air gives your skin that sexy sheen starlets pay for. Just when you want to leave, your order arrives. Hesitating, you unwrap the newspaper and behold the golden brown fish atop a mountain of fries. Add a dab of vinegar and homemade tartar sauce and take a bite into that light, crisp, super crunchy batter. The moist, pure white, unfishy Cod and its delicate, delicious flavor. You're done for, you're hooked. You will be back.
This is a Newfoundland recipe I have adapted to my flavor palate. This will convert many a non fish eater. Newfoundlanders like their food rather bland except for salt - I have to have my garlic, my poultry seasoning which would probably cause a Newfoundlander to make me talk a long walk on a short plank. If you want it to be genuine, boil the fish rather than broil it, and add none of my extra spice.
Cod Au Gratin
1 pack of Cod filets (about 4 medium size filets or 2-3 cups)
4 TBS butter
2 cups milk
3 TBS flour
2 cloves garlic
1.5 cups cheddar and 1/8 cup good quality Parmesan
Spices: Old Bay seasoning, poultry seasoning, salt, pepper, garlic powder
1. Sprinkle filets with Old Bay seasoning, garlic powder, and pepper; pat a bit of butter or oil on. Broil until fish is white and flakes. Squeeze a bit of lemon on if you wish.
2. As fish broils: In a saucepan melt butter, add garlic and cook for about 1 minute, then add flour and stir to form a roux. Add milk, spices to taste and stir.
3. Place broiled fish in buttered casserole dish, top with sauce and stir just a little bit to mix it up and get the filets to break up into large chunks. Top with cheeses and a bit more Old Bay seasoning and bake at 350 until brown and bubbly, about 25 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350. Generously grease a glass baking dish with butter. Serve with a salad.