Cod Au Gratin
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
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 favourite, 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 breadcrumbs 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 breadcrumbs (lemon pepper flavour 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 the 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 about 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 breadcrumbs protects the cheese and also adds great flavour and crunch. While homemade breadcrumbs 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 breadcrumbs 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.
Read more here:
About Me...The Wicked Newfoundlander
I'm originally from Newfoundland, Canada, and very proud of it! I moved to upstate New York in 2007, and I spend much of my time working and playing throughout New England. Besides my wife, our dog and hockey, I'm passionate about food. I love to cook and create great tasting food. I also love tasting and critiquing food, and comparing regional cuisine (notably Newfoundland and New England dishes).