February 26th, 2007
Two of the most popular artworks in the Future Now exhibition were Mary Pratt’s “Cod Fillets in Cardboard Cartons” from
1975 and “Two Pomegranates in a Glass Bowl” from 1984. We asked if she would share with us her favourite cod and pomegranate recipes. More from Mary Pratt on pomegranates coming soon, but here is a yummy cod recipe straight from “the Rock” or for those of you not in the know, Newfoundland. Give it a try and let us know what you (and fellow eaters) think.
Mary Pratt writes:
“ ‘Cod is the “King of Fishes.’ If one says ‘fish’ in Newfoundland, one really means ‘cod.’ Now an endangered species, it was once so plentiful that early explorers said you ‘could walk on fish’ in the Grand Banks. Escoffier, in his classic guide to the Fine Art of Cookery says, concerning ‘fashion’… ‘Fresh cod is a case in point; should this fish appear on the menu of a grand dinner party given by Royalty, the guests would not think it at all out of place…’ Deep-fried ‘fish,’ pan-fried cod – or poached cod are all commonplace to Newfoundlanders and a treat for tourists. However, salt cod is often overlooked these days. It is often expensive now, but when I first came to Newfoundland, salt fish and brewis (hard bread) was a cheap and common Friday meal. I made up a recipe of my own, which even my in-law relatives said they liked. It is based on potato scallop made with a white sauce. The ingredients are:
The salt fish must be “watered” by soaking it in water overnight. Then it must be drained and simmered in fresh water until it “flakes” easily with a fork. Simmering is essential – boiling is not a good idea. The potatoes should be sliced – not too thin – and boiled just until tender.
The white sauce is made by gently cooking equal amounts of butter and flour (be careful it doesn’t burn) for two minutes. When the flour and butter are combined – it’s a good idea to keep an eye on this as it burns easily.Add warmed cream or milk in a steady stream, whisking continuously, adding liquid till the consistency of very heavy cream is obtained. It is best to let this sauce cook at a low heat for as long as you can – 15 to 30 minutes – to get the taste of flour to disappear. White wine can be used to thin the sauce, but it isn’t necessary.
You’ll need a couple of boiled eggs, or more, depending on how much fish and potatoes you plan to combine. The eggs should be sliced crosswise and fairly thick. Now all the real work is done, and all you have to do is line a suitable casserole with butter, and layer fish, potatoes and sliced eggs. I garnish the top with slices of boiled eggs, and then pour the white sauce over the layers, jiggling the casserole to make sure the sauce fills all the air pockets.
Don’t fill the dish to overflowing, as it may bubble over in the oven, and make a mess. The casserole should be heated through in a 325 degree oven till you are sure it is bubbling. If the fop should become dry – brush some melted butter over the eggs – or scoop some sauce over them. If you have some parsley, it is a good idea to garnish the finished “pie” with a few sprigs. I don’t much like shaking paprika over a casserole, but lots of people do – so just make sure it doesn’t look boring. It won’t taste boring, and as it is even better “the next day” it is sensible to make a lot to start with.
I haven’t mentioned salt and pepper. Tastes and dietary preferences dictate their use – so you’re on your own in this department. But remember – the fish is quite salty –so be sure to taste as you go. I have indicated “butter” because I may use margarine on my toast, but food cooked with butter tastes better. Still – margarine works well, especially the unsalted variety.”