Thursday, April 15, 2010

Codfish Pie

I am lamentably behind on this blog. We ate Codfish Pie on Tuesday. This used up the other half of the box of salt codfish that I bought in March. Salt codfish keeps. It used to be stored in open boxes in ethnic grocery stores. I don't know if I remember this or not, there being few to no ethnic grocery stores in the Southern Berkshires in the 1950s and 60s. Since it was in the refrigerator, it kept even better. For some reason, codfish pie struck me as a spring dish. I don't know why, since it has no particularly spring-like ingredients.
Tuesday, although close to the middle of April, was nowhere near a spring day. It was around 45 degrees and raining on the Nuclear Summit, which in turn bollixed up the traffic in a royal way. I left school around 4:30 with Louisa, my student who stays behind for tutoring. While I walked her over to Girard Street where her aftercare program is, she taught me the following rhyme.
"I don't want to go to Mexico no more, more more.
There's a big fat policeman at the door, door, door.
If I open the door,
He will pee on the floor.
So I don't want to go to Mexico no more, more more."
Hmmm. So I was at the bus stop on Columbia Road around 5:00, and after one of the Circulator buses went by and no H2 or H4 buses that take me home, I made a tactical error, and jumped on the next circulator bus, figuring I could catch my bus at 18th and Columbia Road. Well, exactly one hour after I arrived at 18th and Columbia, the bus still hadn't come. Any quantity of parents with their children in parochial school uniforms, young professonals and just ordinary folks came and went. The wind blew down my neck and I deeply regretted not having worn my scarf. Finally I turned to a woman about my age who had been siting next to me for 45 minutes and demanded to know if she wanted to split the cost of a cab.
So I arrived home about 7:00 freezing and in a particularly bad mood. But this was a good dish for that kind of a night. Unfortunately, it is probably particularly bad for the eaters. First of all, it's SALT cod. Now, you soak it to get rid of the salt, but there is still some residual salt. Next it has SALT pork. And you can't soak that, so it's really salty. Salt pork's other name is fatback. You get the picture. Nothing I am supposed to be eating right now, as I am supposed to be on an anti-inflammatory diet, which consists mostly of green, leafy vegetables, and water.
My son the lawyer to be dubbed it "heavy." It becomes a pie by being topped with biscuits. It was good, but, as you say, somewhat heavy. I fully recommend it to any fisherman's family who wants to spend Saturday night sitting around the range in the kitchen swapping seafaring yarns and waiting for their weekly bath before church.

Codfish Pie

1/2 pound salt codfish cut into pieces
1/4 pound salt pork diced
1 medium sized onion finely chopped
3 tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 1/2 cups milk
1 cup diced cooked potatoes
Biscuit dough made from one and one half cups flour.

  1. Soak the codfish two hours in water to cover, changing the water three times. Drain codfish and place in a kettle with fresh water to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered until tender, about ten minutes. Drain and flake the fish.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  3. Cook the salt pork in a skillet until pieces are crisp. Remove salt pork pieces and reserve. Remove all but three tablespoons fat from the skillet.
  4. Saute the onion in the fat in the skillet until tender. Blend in the flour and pepper. Gradually stir in the milk and cook,s tirring, until mixture thickens. Stir in codfish, reserved pork pieces and the potatoes.
  5. Turn into a deep baking dish. Drop the buscuit dough mixture on top of the hot cod mixture and bake 15 minutes or until biscuit topping is browned and cooked.

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