If you’ve seen Peter Pan and you’re an English speaker then you’re familiar with the line, “Hook is a cod fish!” Well, that’s great, but what does that mean? Clearly you understand the insinuation that a cod fish is nothing threatening and probably a little lacking in the mental facilities department, but seriously, of all the species, why a cod fish?
It’s because everyone loves to eat them.
Just for fun, let’s take a trip around Europe and see what everyone likes to do with this unassuming, white fish.
Norwegians may be the largest consumers of cod. While the skrei, or “wandering” cod, migrate through the northern Norwegian Sea in the early spring, they are scooped up by the hundreds and hung out to dry. Called tørrfisk, or stockfish, this dried protein supplement is used all year long to give that salty, fishy taste to Norwegian cuisine. Hardly surprising considering that Scandinavia is surrounded by the ocean. One of the more popular ways to reconstitute this fish is by immersing it into a fish soup where it is stewed with vegetables and bacon.
That sounds so good.
Leave it to the Italians to make slivers of dried fish into one of the most appetizing items on the menu. As the largest European consumers of cod outside of Norway, Italians have perfected its flavor profile pairing it in a traditional manner with ingredients like olive oil and tomatoes.
If that sounds good, imagine then, how delicious rehydrated cod would be when whipped together with olive oil to form a dense spreadable mousse. That’s right, the Italians have brought fish paté to the world. Get excited.
Not to be outdone, the French like to incorporate cod into their dishes too. However, as cod is not a delicate enough sounding word, they like to refer to it as morue. Which, for the record may sound nice, but it originally meant prostitute. Today, however, the word really is more often associated with the significantly less risqué, but probably more delicious fish. To prepare this fish, the French soak it in garlic which they then whip with olive oil, cream, and potatoes. Then, to take it a step further than the Italians, they bake it to create a dish that is fondly known as brandade de morue.
In Spain, cod becomes bacalao, and is a common sight to see. It is often used in both Basque and Catalan cooking in a variety of dishes, but generally contains ingredients like garlic, chilies, and olive oil. Sometimes, it will even be served as tapas with your afternoon beer where it will either be fried or a la vizcaína, which is a tomato and roasted pepper stew in which the bacalao is submerged. The Spanish like to keep it simple, but it is nevertheless delicious.
So next time you find yourself wandering around Europe and need a snack, try something different. Maybe try some cod. You may be surprised how something that you understood to be an insult as a child, could turn out to be oh-so tasty.