A Wicked Scoff...Recipes and Food with Newfoundland and New England Influences.

This blog is dedicated to bring recipes, photographs, anecdotes, reviews and other insights on everything food related. As the name suggests, "A Wicked Scoff" will have a regional flare, a fusion if you will, of both Newfoundland and New England perspectives of the culinary world around me. Thanks for visiting and please come back often as updates will be frequent. Oh yeah, I also like tasting and cooking with regional beers. Expect a beer of the month, often paired with recipes.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cod Tongues and Tarter Sauce

There are so many things to enjoy when I go back home to Newfoundland. From spending time with family and friends, hiking along the rugged coast, and taking in live music in St. John's, and one of the things I look most forward to is getting out in boat to catch a few cod. As luck would have it this year, our vacation was well timed with Newfoundland's recreation cod fishery. Thanks to my cousin Tony who has a boat and a love for out on the water,  mom, my wife and myself had a morning out fishing in Trinity Bay. While the fishing was slow at first, and the skies threatened to rain much of the morning, we eventually found the fish and had no trouble getting our quota of 15 beautiful cod. I myself was extra lucky having pulled up the biggest catch of the day, a 17-pounder. While the sport of cod fishing is fun, that's no the main reason I do it and look forward to it however...it's all about the fish!

There is nothing like eating fish "straight out of the water" as we like to say in Newfoundland. Eating fresh cod, that just a few hours before they hit your plate were swimming around at the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean, is a special treat. For many years all Newfoundlander's likely took that for granted, but since the moratorium on the Atlantic Cod fishery, which was mandated by the federal government in 1993, we certainly cherish the opportunities to eat this wonderful fish these days. So, tradition in our house is to have a wicked big feed of pan fried cod when I'm home for vacation. While the fish fillets get the star treatment for this meal, it's the appetizer of fried cod tongues that I look forward to most.

For those of you who do not know, cod tongues are not actually tongues, but a small muscle from the neck of the fish, which is succulent and it has a different texture than the fillets. It also has a little cartilage like material through the middle, which melts tender while cooking if the tongues are not too large. To me, they taste like the ocean, a little briney, sweet and juicy. The best thing I can compare them too are fried oysters or whole belly clams. What ever the case, they're some good. In Newfoundland the traditional way to cook them is to bread them lightly in seasoned flour and pan fry them in fat rendered from salt pork. I stayed pretty close to tradition for mine, and also made a tangy tarter sauce for dipping them in.

Fried Cod Tongues

  • 2 lbs fresh cod tongues, washed and dried
  • 1 cup flour, season with 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 4 ounces of salt pork cut into small 1/4 inch cubes (scrunchins)
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil 

Wash the cod tongues and dry with paper towels. Toss in the seasoned flour until lightly coated. Cook the salt pork in a skillet over a medium until the pork pieces are crispy and have released or rendered their fat. Add the vegetable oil to the skillet. Fry the cod tongues over medium-high heat until crispy and golden brown on each side. Eat them plain or dip them in this simple, tangy tarter sauce.

Tarter Sauce

In a small bowl, combine 1 cup of salad dressing (such as Miracle Whip), 3 Tbsp of sweet pickle relish, 1 Tbsp lemon juice, 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Cod Au Gratin Recipe

There is a school of thought in the culinary world that pairing seafood and cheese is somewhat of a no-no. This is especially true in Italian cuisine as it relates to seafood pasta and cheese. For people who turn their nose up to seafood and cheese, they have probably never enjoyed rich lobster mac-n-cheese, a warm cheesy tuna melt, seafood pizza or my favorite cod au gratin. Growing up in Newfoundland where fresh or frozen cod fish was always close at hand, this rich, cheesy casserole of cod, white sauce, cheddar cheese and bread crumbs was a staple. With that being said, there are variations on how people make it, namely the ratio of butter, flour and milk in the white sauce, how the dish gets layered and whether or not to add onion.After much experimenting over the years and tasting some not so successful versions of this classic meal, here is A Wicked Scoff's version of cod au gratin.

Cod au Gratin.(serves 4 as a main course)

  • 2 lbs cod fillet (you can use haddock, sole or other white fish)
  • 1/4 cup butter, plus 1 TBSP
  • 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups sharp or old cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/2 strong aged cheese such as Parmesan of Pada Gradano, grated 
  • 1 cup Panko-style bread crumbs (lemon pepper flavor if available, if not add lemon zest or lemon pepper)
  • 1 tsp dried summer savory, rubbed
  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a microwave safe bowl, combine the minced onion with 1 tablespoon of butter and cook on high for 45 seconds, or until the onion had softened and butter has melted. Add the butter and onions to a 9x9-inch casserole pan (or similar size) and arrange cod fillets over the top (Many recipes call for you to break the cod into pieces after it has precooked, but I like to keep the fillets whole and break into them during plating once the casserole is finished. I feel the former method can make the fish flesh breakdown too much and thus you lose some texture and he fish gets overcooked). Season the fish with a little salt and pepper. Place in the oven and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes while you make the sauce. 

In a medium sized sauce pan melt the butter over a medium heat and then stir in the flour with a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat to low and cook the flour and butter mixture, known as a roux, for about a minute. While this is cooking warm the milk in the microwave to take the chill off. Using warmed milk will make the white sauce thicken much more quickly. Return the heat to medium, and with a whisk in one hand, slowly pour in the milk to the sauce pan, whisking as you pour. I typically pour a bout a 1/2 cup of liquid in at a time, waiting for the sauce to thicken between pours.After all the milk has been added and the sauce has thickened, reduce the heat to low and add 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese and 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, the savory and a pinch of salt and pepper. Remove the fish from the oven and pour any of the liquid that escaped from the fish into the casserole dish into the white sauce and stir it in. This is a trick I use to prevent the casserole sauce from thinning out once combined. Pour the cheesy white sauce over the fish fillets and top with the remaining cup of grated cheddar cheese.To prevent the top of the casserole from turning chewy, a layer of bread crumbs which protects the cheese and also adds great flavor and crunch. While homemade bread crumbs work great, I like using Panko breadcrumbs (a Japanese style breadcrumb now available at most grocery stores). In fact, for my latest edition of this recipe I used lemon pepper seasoned Panko and the result was outstanding. If you can't find these then feel free to add fresh lemon zest or lemon pepper spice. Increase the oven temperature to 400 and return the casserole to the oven and cook for another 15 minutes until the sauce is bubbling, the cheese has melted and the bread crumbs have browned.

Cod au Gratin is an extremely satisfying comfort food. It makes for an excellent appetizer or as a main course with some steamed vegetables, a salad and a nice piece of bread.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Moose "Barrenland". Tender moose braised in blueberry-partridgeberry wine with moose stock and aromatic vegetables.

Before my recent vacation back home to Newfoundland, I was very excited to eat as many local products as I could, as well as try a few restaurants, both new places and old favorites. I was not disappointed as I was able to get my hands on lots of fresh seafood, berries, local wines and beers in addition to trying some creative restaurant fare. One of the things I was most excited about on my trip was a rare opportunity to cook with moose. While I do get to use "bottled moose" occasionally down here in the Boston States, as followers of this blog may know, actually cooking with raw moose is something I haven't done in years. Thanks to my generous uncle, there was a large bone-in roast and a pack of short ribs from a central Newfoundland moose waiting for me at my parents house upon my arrival in Trinity Bay.

For some time now I knew what I wanted to do with the moose. I am a big fan of braised meat, a one of my favorite ways to eat it is slow cooked with lots of onions in some beef stock until it is extremely tender. Playing along those lines,  I really wanted to put my own Newfoundland spin on it, to make the meal a truly wicked scoff. Part of our vacation took my wife and I to New World Island off Newfoundland's north-central coast. Known for its scenic fishing villages, great hiking and its prominent location in "Iceberg Alley", this little part of Newfoundland can also boast excellent wine.

Auk Island Winery in Durrell's Arm, South Twillingate Island, features a large variety of wines featuring local Newfoundland berries and fruit, such as blueberries, partridgeberries bakeapples and rhubarb. In addition to offering sweet dessert wines, and semi-dry fruit/berry wines, Auk Island also paris the above mentioned native berries with varieties of grapes to make blended wines that are a litter drier than typical berry wines, thus making them great wines for all occasions, including pairing with food (for example try the blueberry-shiraz) and for cooking. While we were there we couldn't decide which few to buy, wanting a couple to bring back into the States, so we bought a whole case, having lots to sample with family and friends during our stay. The one that caught my eye for both drinking and cooking with was their Moose Joose, a blend of blueberries and partridgeberries, and presumably summer grazing food for Newfoundland moose.

So, back to the moose. With the Moose Joose wine, my dish planning was in order. Since blueberries and partridgeberries grow on Newfoundland marshes and barrens, I decided to called my braised dish "moose barrenland"...sort of a play on "Boeuf Bouruignon". Now that I had selected the wine to cook the moose with, I needed some other ingredients. Using classic braising vegetables I combined browned moose pieces (seared in small batches a little oil) with onions, carrots, celery and garlic, a whole bottle of Moose Joose, three cups of moose stock, a little tomato paste for body, some flour to thicken the sauce, and some salt and pepper. Cooked low and slow for 3 1/2 hours and I ended up with succulent morsels of moose with a rich, flavorful sauce. Paired with some buttery mashed potatoes, carmalized onions and mushrooms and steamed vegetable and my family and I were well fed with a dish to remember. Here's how I put it together. Remember if you don;t have moose, any wild game would be great paired with the wine, as would beef.

Moose Barrenland

  • one 4-6 pound bone-in moose roast, bone removed and meat cut into stewing pieces
  • 3 large yellow onions
  • 6 large carrots, diced
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 3 cups moose stock (or beef stock)
  • 1 750ml bottle of blueberry-partridgeberry wine
  • 1 tsp dried summer savory
  • salt and pepper
  • vegetable oil for searing moose
  • 2 bay leaves

  • The first job is to remove the meat from the bone. This is best done ahead a time so you can make the stock.Working carefully with a sharp knife, follow the individual muscles and remove them from the roast. Be sure to trip off excess fat and silver skin which can be tough to eat. Once all the meat has been removed, cut the moose into stew pieces, about 1 inch in size. Set aside as you'll use the bone to make a rich moose stock.
  • In a 325 oven, add the meaty moose bone, along with 1 chopped onion and about 3 cups of water and a bay leaf to a small roaster and cook for about 90 minutes. Remove from oven and strain liquid, which should yield about 3 cups of stock.
  • In a heavy bottom Dutch Oven or cast iron skillet, heat about 1 Tbsp of vegetable oil over medium high heat. Dry the moose pieces with a paper towel and season them well with salt and pepper. Sear and brown the moose in small batches and set each batch aside until all the moose has been browned. You may have to add more oil between batches. It is very important to keep the batches small (3-4 batches for this amount of meat) as overcrowding the pan will lower the temperature and you won't get a good sear. What will happen is the meat will give off moisture and you'll end up with steamed meat with no browning. Browning equals flavor!
  • After the moose has been browned, the chopped onions and carrots to the pan, along with a pinch of salt. Lower the heat to medium. Stir the veggies around the pan with a wooden spoon, making sure to scrape off the "fond", the browned bits of flavor stuck to the bottom. The veggies will absorb and release the fond, and the salt will help with this process.
  • Next add the butter, garlic, flour and tomato paste and stir well with the veggies. Cook for a bout one minute.
  • If you cooked the moose and veggies in a Dutch oven, and the vessel you plan to braise in add the moose. If you browned the moose and veggies in a cast iron skillet transfer everything to a roasting pan. 
  • Deglaze the bottom of the pot with the wine and beef stock, add the dried savory, bay leaf and some salt and pepper. Mix all the ingredients and place covered in a 325 oven for 3 to 3.5 hours. The moose will be fall apart tender and the liquid will have thickened into a rich, velvety sauce. 
  • Served the Moose Barrenland over garlic smashed potatoes, with sauteed onions and mushrooms and some seasonal vegetables.

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