Henry's CoddiesMakes five or six baseball-sized coddies
Ingredients 1/2 lb prepared salt cod*
1 lb potatoes, peeled
1 egg, scrambled
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
a few dashes Worcestershire sauce
1 cup breadcrumbs**
*There are sometimes two grades of salt cod available in the same store. The superior grade is about double the cost. For coddies, stick with the cheaper stuff, usually around $6/lb. One smallish piece should be about 1/2 lb. You can find salt cod in many supermarkets and some ethnic or seafood markets.
** You can use either fresh or dried, but fresh will brown faster.
Preparing the cod The traditional way is to just soak the entire piece in water overnight, changing the water three or four times along the way. But I tend not to plan that far ahead so I never do that. Instead I do an express soak:
1) Slice the cod crosswise into thin slices—it’s OK since we’re pulverizing it for the cakes anyway, and this allows water to penetrate more easily.
2) Rinse the fish in water a few times to remove the surface salt.
3) Place fish and cold water to cover by a few inches in a pot, and set over medium-low heat.
4) Bring to a simmer, and cook for five minutes.
5) Drain and rinse with cold water until cool. Then break into small pieces and filaments by pressing and rubbing between fingers. Use gloves if possible—the fish will be a bit stank.
Instructions 1) Boil potatoes by slicing into 1-inch pieces, covering with cold water in a pot, and bringing to boil on medium heat. Cook until potatoes are quite soft, then cool and mash. You can do this and prepare the cod simultaneously to save time.
2) In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except breadcrumbs and mix thoroughly. Adjust seasonings to taste.
3) Put breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl. Form coddie mixture into balls and roll in breadcrumbs. Gently form into slightly flattened cakes, and place on a plate. Cover cakes with plastic wrap and allow them to firm up in the fridge for at least an hour.
4) Heat a neutral oil (not extra virgin olive or sesame) in a nonstick or cast-iron pan to medium, or until a breadcrumb dropped on the pan instantly sizzles, but does not smoke. Carefully fry cakes, turning gently as necessary until a nice brown crust is achieved.
5) Serve with crackers and mustard.
Fried Fish This isn’t really a recipe, more a set of general tips. Making lake trout at home is utterly impractical—it’s labor-intensive, tricky to get right, and messy. It’s cheap as hell to get it done properly from a pro, and if you can get fresh whiting to bring home, chances are it’s just as easy to get fried whiting. Does that make sense?
Anyway, the best fried fish I’ve ever had was from a small chain of restaurants called Penn’s based in Mississippi. They use catfish in a cornmeal coating, but somehow the exterior is the perfect balance of gritty corn crunch and wheat-flour crisp, and the fish is resilient, meaty, moist, fresh, slightly salty, ohhhh man. I’ve spent the past five years trying to get close to that, since Penn’s catfish is a bit harder to come by than lake trout. I’m not there by a long shot, but I’ve learned a couple of tricks that should apply to any fried-fish endeavor.
• Any Southern-style fried fish should include cornmeal in the coating. It makes for great crunch, but the cornmeal particles are large and hard, so there’s a trade-off in overall texture as compared to, say, a New England-style wheat flour/egg/baking soda batter, like you would find in fish and chips, which is also crunchy but smooth overall. One way to balance the texture is to use both flour and cornmeal, and find a ratio that works best for you. I like about a 50/50 ratio. Also, do not use stone-ground cornmeal; try to find regular old cornmeal or corn flour, as it’s sometimes called.
• Along with cornmeal and flour, corn starch can be used to affect crunchiness. If you’re finding the coating to be too limp, add a little corn starch at a time to achieve extra hardness.
• Always use onion powder in the coating. Along with salt, pepper, cayenne, or whatever spices you might like, onion powder reliably adds that “restaurant” flavor.
• If you don’t have the equipment or space or whatever for deep frying, you can semi-deep fry by using about an inch of oil in a high-sided pan. Always use a neutral, high smoke-point oil like canola, or even just vegetable, but not olive. To prevent excess splatter, you can fashion a protective wall around the pan out of tinfoil. Ghetto but effective.
• Many fish have a tendency to curl when cooked. To mitigate this, make very shallow cross-cuts on the skin-side surface. This will be the smoother surface, sometimes with a darker-colored region running along it. If the skin is still on, make the cuts through the skin and barely piercing the flesh.
• For very moist fish like farmed catfish or flounder, it’s often difficult to get the coating to stick. The key is to remove excess moisture somehow. This can be done via a light dry brine—pat the surface of the fish dry with paper towels, then lightly salt and allow to rest for at least an hour. Pat dry again before coating. This also helps keep very delicate fish from breaking apart while frying.
• Another way to help the coating stick is to allow a pre-fry rest. After coating, allow to rest for a few minutes—this will allow the flour or meal particles to hydrate and adhere to the fish, as well as to each other. In addition to sticking to the fish better, this will help limit the amount of stray coating particles entering the cooking oil. Excess coating in the oil accelerates breakdown and development of burnt flavor, plus soaks up oil that might otherwise be available for frying.