At last! Time to pit my old standard cod au gratin recipe against the others and see how it holds up.
The recipe I usually use is from The Canadian Living Cookbook. I find the Canadian Living cookbooks to be very reliable–they are go-tos in my kitchen, kitchen encyclopedias, as it were, much like The Better Homes and Garden New Cookbook is for many people.
The Canadian Living recipe for cod au gratin differs from others I have seen. The cod is oven-poached in milk until it is flakey. The milk is poured off the fish and used to make the béchamel sauce. The sauce then tops the fish, the cheese tops the sauce, and the whole goes back into the oven to be heated through. (That’s sounding a bit like the beginnings of a song–hmm, “The fish was baked in the oven, in the oven, and the fish was baked in the oven.”) I used aged, white cheddar to special it up a bit.
When I (re-)tested this recipe, my husband’s brother and his family were visiting from the land of sauerbraten. . . succulent, tender sauerbraten. Okay, back on track here. Paul, my brother-in-law, has given up eating beef (no sauerbraen for you!) and pork, so what better to serve than a favourite seafood dish. And given the seconds that were eaten, I’d have to say that was a good decision.
This quest has forced me to give some other cod au gratin recipes a try, but nothing beats this one for me. It has the warm, homey flavour that any comfort food should have, the cod-infused milk highlighting the fish flavour rather than masking it. Here’s my version of the Canadian Living recipe:
Cod au Gratin
adapted from The Canadian Living Cookbook
Makes 4 to 6 servings
- 1 lb. (454 g.) fresh or thawed cod
- 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) hot milk
- 1/4 cup (50 ml) butter
- 1/4 cup (50 ml) flour (all-purpose or nutri-blend)
- 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) salt
- 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp (1.25 ml) dry mustard or 2 tsp (10 ml) prepared or dijon mustard, according to taste (optional)
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups (250 to 375 ml) grated old white cheddar cheese
- Preheat the oven to 350F or 180C.
- Grease an 8 x 8 or 9 x 9 baking dish. Cut the cod into cubes of about 2″, and place in a single layer in the prepared dish.
- Pour the hot milk over the fish and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until fish just pulls away with a fork. Be careful not to overcook it.
- Drain the milk from the fish and reserve. Put the fish aside.
- In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook for a couple of minutes. Do not brown the flour. Stir in the salt, pepper, and mustard.
- Slowly whisk in the reserved milk. Stir and cook over medium heat until thickened.
- Pour the sauce over the fish. Top evenly with the grated cheese. Return to the oven for about 20 minutes or until heated through.
If you don’t like cheese, omit it and consider boosting the flavour by sautéeing a clove of minced garlic in the butter before adding the flour. Or try adding a bit of dill. But go easy on it; you don’t want it to overpower the fish.