Week 8 - To Fry Whitings

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Each year there’s one dish that visitors to the Colony’s Kitchen fall in love with. Last year? Apple fritters. No shocker there. But this year.....

To say that this week’s recipe - To Fry Whitings - was the surprise hit of the season is an understatement. After all, it isn’t (or at least wasn’t) exactly food of the gods. Until the late 20th century, Whiting (a member of the cod family) was a cheap fish, generally regarded as food for the poor. It was also allegedly used as a filler in flour. In times of grain shortages, millers and bakers were commonly accused of using ground whiting to cut their flour as the cost of the fish was lower than that of the actual grain. Bet that made for some “interesting” bread!

But tastes change. Just as many of the Colony’s visitors enjoyed the taste of the lower class multi-grain maslin bread over it’s more uppity cousin the all-white manchet, an overwhelming number of them also gave two great big thumbs up to this simple fish dish.

To Fry Whitings comes courtesy of A Booke of Cookrye Very Necessary for All Such as Delight Therein with recipes gathered by the anonymous A W, and printed by John Allde in 1584:

To fry Whitings. First flay them and wash them clean and scale them, that doon, lap them in floure and fry them in Butter and oyle. Then to serve them, mince apples or onions and fry them, then put them into a vessel with white wine, vergious, salt, pepper, cloves & mace, and boile them togither on the Coles, and serve it upon the Whitings.

Whiting are found in Newfoundland waters, but I’ve never seen them for sale in local supermarkets or fish shops. Since Whiting are a close relative of Atlantic Cod (and with NL’s summer food fishery just cluing up), Lori and Krista substituted readily available cod fillets. Feel free to do the same, or substitute another member of the cod family - haddock, pollock or hake.

Vergious, known today as verjus or verjuice, is juice pressed from unripe grapes or crab apples. It’s gently acidic with a milder taste than vinegar, but can be hard to track down. If you’re adventurous, and have access to unripe grapes, you can make your own. Otherwise, feel free to substitute apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar. Regular ol’ white vinegar will also work in a pinch, just cut back on the amount a bit.

To get you started, Lori and Krista have kindly provided their working interpretation of A.W.’s recipe. The original called for minced onions OR apples, but L and K had greatest success with a combination of both:

Ingredients

  • 700 grams cod fillets
  • 100 grams butter
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 medium tart apples, diced (Granny Smith, or even better, local apples)
  • 1 small pinch mace
  • 1 small pinch ground cloves
  • 275 ml white wine
  • 15 ml vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Flour (to coat the fish)

For the Sauce:

Melt the butter. Add the diced onions and apple. Cook until soft. Do not brown! Add wine, verjuice or vinegar, mace, cloves, salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes more to allow flavors to combine. Keep warm while fish is frying.

Above: Sweating the apples and onion.

Above: Sweating the apples and onion.

For the Fish:

Melt a bit of butter in a large frying pan. Dust the fish with flour and fry gently until both sides are lightly browned and fish has turned opaque (5 - 10 minutes depending on the thickness of your fillets).

Above: Frying the fish

Above: Frying the fish

Plate your fish and top with apples and onions. Enjoy!

Above: The finished dish. L & K say the taste was fantastic. Presentation? Needs some work.

Above: The finished dish. L & K say the taste was fantastic. Presentation? Needs some work.

Simple ... right? Remember, post a pic of your “Fried Whitings” on the Colony of Avalon’s Facebook page and you’ll be automatically entered to win both this week’s and our grand prize. Up for grabs this week? The modern classic Fish & Shellfish: The Definitive Cook's Companion by James Peterson.

Deadline is midnight, Wednesday, September 13, 2017.