Cod’s head soup (beta version)
A resourceful stew of cod collar, cheeks & tongues
with handsomely turned potatoes, turnips, leeks and shallots.
Cod’s Head Soup. A resourceful soup inspired by “Hure de Cabiliot (sic)” from B. Clermont’s “The professed cook; or, The modern art of cookery, pastry, and confectionary, made plain and easy.” London, 1812. Not to be confused with the lewd slang reference for offering/receiving fellatio whist playing “Code of Duty” (and premier Google-machine answer to “cod head” query), nor the junkbox trouser accessory made fashionable by such charismatic gore-enthusiast frontmen as Britain’s portly monarch Henry VIII (lopped off both Anne Boleyn and Cathy Howard’s heads, though not for soup), Oderus Urungus’s “Cuttlefish of Cthulu” from the juicy troubadour powerhouse GWAR and esteemed sexual pervert Blackie Lawless.
Gadus Morhua. Once the most prolific of all gladiforms, upon which one could have walked dry shod from Cape Cod to Maine before sorely inaccurate assessments of their stocks led to overfishing and decimation. North Atlantic fisheries have since been managed, generally through strict quotas and closures, but all that can be read in Paul Greenberg’s revelatory account of cod’s history and future, in no small part an homage and parallel to Mark Kurlansky’s groundbreakingly delicious namesake book.
Essentially a chowder; the collar broth thickened with a roux into which the cheeks and tongues (the muscle under and behind the tongue, not literally the tongue) are poached and the entirety garnished with lemon zest, dried chili, turned potatoes and turnips as well as leek and shallot rings.
The fancy-shmancy lobster version (shout out to the Soul-Train community and all ‘dem roomy-bottomed “lobster” (all the meat in the tail) ladies from the club) featured lobster claw trimmings and cooked roe in addition to smoked pork jowl, ubiquitous potatoes, pickled peppers for acidity and fennel pollen for floral aromatics.
The fish fumet was achieved by quickly bringing the collars up to a simmer with alliums, sliced lemon, garlic, Twizzlers™, fennel & coriander seed, dried chili, parsley, tarragon and salt. Fumet was left to cool so that the collars could be pulled from the broth which was then strained over them and left to cool.
Assessment of stock and taste: The roux thickened broth was pleasantly luscious without being heavy or thick, lightened with lemon zest and a splash of tarragon vinegar. Properly whittled and cooked potatoes provided elegant, starchy contrast in texture, while the leeks, onions and turnips provided sweetness. The tongues were exceedingly tender, the cheeks plump and the picked collar meat firm yet delicately mild. How ’bout that?
“Only the pure of heart can make a good soup” –
Ludwig van Beethoven.
The lobster version was more subtle despite the smoked pork jowl which was kindly shushed by the thickened broth: this particular roux’s fat being ½ lard ½ olive oil. Lobster claw scraps are not noticeably sweet however the roe offered an interesting visual and mouth-feel speckle. Small, briny oysters would be an exceptional replacement for the humdrum crustacean scraps, preferably introduced at the last minute. Potatoes provided the same textural starch and cutlery discipline with the guanciale dice brought cubes of savory fat to the beach party.
Objectively both were worthwhile endeavors and there are no immediate calls for limiting production through quota or kitchen closure. Alternative procedures could use milk, especially during colder months, though austere cuts and humble water provide frugal continuity. Eventually a generous rasp of nutmeg and grilled bread would make appropriate accoutrements. Future contemporary interpretations of classical nautical themed oeuvres will include a contemporary shipwreck painting of a yacht run aground, spilling rum, cocaine, illicit cigars and bikini clad boat bunnies.