This latest entry was submitted by Helen Gilbert, formerly of Saint John. Although it is in a letter form rather than a recipe, I think you'll agree that her way of describing the making of this great old traditional New Brunswick dish is unique and easy to follow. Thanks Helen for sharing a great recipe with us.
When I was a kid, back in the 1950's, we ate fish every Friday. It seemed to be a kind of working class institution whether or not your family was Catholic. My family was religiously mixed so I might have a skewed remembrance that I credit all New Brunswickers as sharing.
Anyway, My favorite fish meal was put together something like this:
First go to the City Market in Saint John or Sobeys for those unfortunates who live outside the greatest little city on earth.
Next, buy a good piece of salt cod. If you don't know the difference between good salt cod and mediocre, then just keep trying the recipe until you know the difference. Or take an older and wiser Maritimer with you. I would suggest my dad but he is getting on and I am wearing him out while forcing him to choose the best salmon and lobster, deep fried scallop location, etc.
However you find your choice salt cod, you must next soak it in a lot of water. Overnight is best.
The next day, about an hour and a half before you want to eat: Put some potatoes on to boil with 3 or 4 cloves of garlic while you gently squeeze the water out of the now very expanded fish. Get as much water out as you can.
Mash the potatoes with your choice of potato mashing ingredients. Ingredients depended upon my family's economic state during childhood, but the garlic is totally necessary. Potato water can sub for milk. But, please, nothing beyond butter (or substitute) and cream (best) or milk, pepper and VERY LITTLE salt, after all, we are using SALT cod.)
Flake up the fish and combine it well with the potatoes and one well-beaten egg.
Heat some butter. YES butter. No bacon grease for this dish. While the butter heats, form the fish-potato-egg into patties. This is a skill that Friday fish grandmothers do well. If you get stuck at this point, it is sinful but allowed to add a bit of flour. Try to avoid that addition.
Now that the butter is hot, fry the fish cakes until golden brown, turning once until golden brown on both sides.
Yummy. Cole slaw a la New Brunswick, is the necessary side dish. You know, the old-fashioned creamy stuff, or fried cabbage if you want to die young. Fiddleheads are the #1 next dish when in season. Otherwise, carrots.
For a really special treat, drench the cakes with Hollandaise sauce, garnish with sliced hard-boiled eggs and serve on a bed of spinach.
Submitted by Helen Gilbert