Morue à la Catalane. Monday, Aug 13 2012 

Catalan Saltcod.

Honk if dried, salted fish makes you horny.

Saltcod. Noblest of fish in the history of western civilization whose nutritional and physical properties coronated the once revered bottom feeder as the versatile backstroking emperor to the now obsessed-upon pig papacy. Cod’s fabled abundance and remarkably slim fat content allowed it to air-dry, providing perennial sustenance for seaborne contingents on the high seas and snowbound penitents during Lenten months. Bones, skin, collar, roe, milk, liver, oil, tongue, cheeks, feet and feathers; all of the slippery beast was, in some shape or form, edible. And yet cod tattoos are not likely to be impulsively exploited by insecure chefs as much as the cute piggy ones, or other tattoos that reaffirm ones accomplishment in the craft (if only frying ears or using bacon –gasp! in an unorthodox, downright wacky composition), like inefficient utility vehicles on unnecessarily knobby tires eliminate the anxieties of their genitally deficient drivers by suppressing whatever sexual suspicions  an economy car casts on gossipy passersby.

After being delicately poached in a lemon and garlic scented court bouillon the miracle fish was introduced to a summer stew of Carmen peppers  (peeled, naturally), plum tomatoes, dried chorizo, red onions and capers. All parties involved got along swimmingly, perfume of lightly roasted peppers and the thickening properties of their juices given some help to the otherwise boring tomato juices. Salty capers and saltcod were the torch bearers at opposite ends with sweet onion and peppers in the middle ground, some chorizo coins for spicy heat and sherry vinegar for the essential acidity. If ever there were a successful dish that had used regional salted mainstays and ingredients to accentuate and extol the produce of summer, while encouraging, even, inducing fertility, this was it.

Hure de Cabillaud Wednesday, Sep 15 2010 

Cod’s head soup (beta version)

A resourceful stew of cod collar, cheeks & tongues
with handsomely turned potatoes, turnips, leeks and shallots.

Save the neck for me, Clark.

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.

Blackie & Decker power tool inspired codpieces.

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.

My other shirts have the collars worn “up”.

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.

Got crabs at a cheap nudie bar? What did you expect, lobster?

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.

Viewer discretion: raw tongue and cheek action.

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.

Clean broth, filthy stove.

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.

A. Cheek; B. Tongue; C. Collar; D. Swimmy things; E. Pinstripe speed lines.

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.