By Chef Murray McDonald
For generations in Newfoundland, people only ate certain dishes on specific days of the week.
Fish on Friday, for example. (And, in Newfoundland, “fish” is what we call “cod.”) Then it was pea soup on Saturday, and Jiggs dinner on Sunday. If that changed the world would end—and, for that reason, cod and Jiggs dinner were never, ever served together. When I moved back to Newfoundland, after a few years cooking around the world, I wanted to create new dishes based on traditional Newfoundland food. So I was thinking about growing up, and those Sunday mornings at my grandparents’ house. When I woke up, my grandmother would already be getting everything ready for Jiggs dinner. So, it was my grandfather’s job to make breakfast for me and my sister. He always cooked pan-fried cod with all the fixings—without a shirt on—but he was good at it. So, I was thinking about that warm feeling that came with waking up in my grandparents’ house to the smells of pan-fried cod and the beginnings of that night’s Jiggs dinner, and decided that I just had to put a modern interpretation of each of them on the same plate. The world didn’t end.
I was thinking about that warm feeling that came with waking up in my grandparents’ house to the smells of pan-fried cod and the beginnings of that night’s Jiggs dinner
– Murray McDonald
- 300 g (10 oz) boneless salt beef
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 medium rutabaga, peeled, cut into large dice
- 1 large cabbage leaf
- 1 carrot, peeled
- 1 rutabaga, peeled
- 2 potatoes, peeled
- 250 mL (1 cup) split yellow peas
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 3 tbsp cornstarch
- 3 tbsp flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 4 skin-on fillets of cod, about 180 g (6 oz) each
- Sea salt
- 2 tbsp grape seed oil
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 3 tbsp butter
The day before getting started, transfer salt beef to a non-reactive container, cover with cold water, and refrigerate overnight—changing the water several times. Next, transfer beef, carrots, onion and turnip to a stock pot, and add about 10 L (10 quarts) of cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower to a simmer, until beef is tender and yields easily when prodded with a fork—about two to three hours. Remove beef from broth, cover, and set aside to cool. Strain broth and reserve. Discard vegetables.
Bring the reserved broth to a boil. Blanch the cabbage until just tender, and then plunge into iced water. Cut each vegetable into whatever shape you desire. Working with one vegetable at a time (they cook at different rates), blanch the carrot, rutabaga and potato pieces until just tender, and then plunge into the iced water. Drain. Cut the cabbage leaf into desired shapes. Reserve.
For the Pease pudding, bring 2 L (2 quarts) of the reserved beef stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Add the yellow peas and cook until soft— about 30 minutes. Strain, reserving the cooking liquid. Transfer peas to a blender, add the butter and a little of the reserved cooking liquid, and blend until smooth. Add liquid and salt as needed. Pass through a fine mesh sieve. Remove 1 cup for the fritter batter to a mixing bowl and reserve the balance. To prepare the fritter batter, sift the cornstarch, flour and baking powder over the pea purée, season with salt, and mix well with a wooden spoon. If batter is too liquid to hold its shape, stir in a little more flour and cornstarch.
Preheat deep-fryer to 180°C (350°F).
Heat a large, heavy-bottomed skillet on high. Pat the cod fillets dry with paper towels. Salt them generously. When the pan begins to smoke, add the grape seed oil. When the oil begins to smoke, carefully place the fillets of fish in the pan flesh side down, pressing the fillets down gently with an offset spatula so that they sear evenly. After about 45 seconds, turn heat down to medium low. After about one minute, shake the pan and the fish should come loose; if not, use your spatula to free it. Add the garlic, thyme and butter. When the fish is about three-quarters of the way cooked through, flip the fillets over and baste. When they are just cooked through, remove to a warm platter to rest briefly.
Meanwhile, use two spoons to form the fritter batter into four quenelles. Deep-fry until golden brown on all sides, turning if necessary—about two minutes. Reheat the Pease pudding over low heat. Heat the vegetables in a little of the simmering stock. Cube the reserved salt-beef. To finish, spread some Pease pudding to one side of each of four warmed plates. Place the fish on top skin-side down. Scatter the cubed salt beef around it, along with the vegetables. Garnish each plate with a dollop or two of yoghurt, and serve.