As the world copes with COVID-19 by stockpiling toilet paper and pasta, it got me thinking about the cooks aboard the famous Gloucester fishing schooners. It was their job to provision and plan out how to feed up to two dozen hungry fishermen for up to two and half months at sea! That was three large meals per day plus snacks, coffee and tea around the clock. “Cookie” didn’t have to risk his life in a dory hauling in cod, but he worked just as hard keeping morale up in an industry where nobody got more than a couple hours of sleep.
Imagine how much food they had to bring, both fresh and preserved, before the days of flash freezing. Everything in barrels, cans, boxes, the fresh meat and vegetables in the ice box. Cooks had a keen awareness of the shelf life, and knew to use up the fresh foods at the start of the trip. As the trip went on, they went into the preserved foods and to supplement the pounds of salted beef and smoked shoulder, more fresh fish would be served.
Things aren’t quite the same in the Gloucester fleet, but Gloucestermen are still fishing, it’s still a ton of work being the cook and fishermen are no strangers to “social-distancing”. Life goes on for them, which means there is plenty of local seafood around to supplement whatever is left in the supermarket. Also, with China’s huge demand for lobster cut by the Coronavirus, you may also notice live lobsters are being sold for less-than-luxury prices.
Speaking of supermarkets, on my last visit the meat counter was barren, but there was still plenty of seafood options, especially in the frozen section. Whether you have access to fresh caught seafood like me, or frozen fish at the supermarket, don’t forget to venture beyond the wasteland of the middle aisles and check out the seafood counter or frozen aisle to find haddock or a comparable mild white fish like cod, pollock or flounder.
Scrod Haddock From Steve Connolly Seafood
My father-in-law dropped off four fillets of scrod haddock, fresh off the boat down at Steve Connolly’s on the Gloucester waterfront. For the record, scrod is a small sized cod or haddock, not a species of fish. I’ve heard waitstaff tell tourists that scrod is an acronym for Small Catch Of the Day – which is false. Scrod is a very old term dating back to at least the Middle Ages denoting small but marketable sized fish. Today the term is only used for cod and haddock that I know of.
In the spirit of those old schooner cooks I wanted to make a fish dinner that utilized the freshest Gloucester fish around, paired with items you may already have in your pantry, fridge or freezer. It’s variation of traditional baked haddock you find in New England and Nova Scotia that I learned from my grandmother. But instead of the condensed mushroom soup I chose to make my own creamy binder.
The Recipe: Scrod Haddock With Creamy Dill Sauce
- 4 Fillets Scrod Haddock (1-1.5lbs)
- 1/2 Cup Mayonnaise (I used Sir Kensington’s)
- 1/2 Cup Sour Cream
- 1-2 Tbsps. Dried Herbs (dill, tarragon, thyme)
- 1 Lemon (zest and juice)
- Salt and Pepper
- 1 Sleeve Butter Crackers ( about 30 Ritz, Town House etc..)
- 2-3 Tbsps. Butter
- 1/2 Cup Shredded Cheese (optional)
Preheat oven to 375F. Season haddock with salt and pepper and place in a well buttered casserole dish. Combine mayo, sour cream, dill, pepper and lemon zest and coat the fish well. If you opt for cheese add it on now. Combine the remaining ingredients (including any other dried herbs) in a food processor and pulse until you have a lemony, buttery cracker crumb mix. Top the fish and bake uncovered for about 20-25 minutes.
Besides the fish, I actually had all of these ingredients in my house so it came together very quickly. Same with the side dishes: Frozen steam-in-bag broccoli florets, and a bag of instant mashed potatoes. The thin fillets of scrod haddock were perfectly done with golden brown topping in 22 minutes.
The Verdict: Baked Scrod Haddock
I loved how this haddock turned out. So nice and creamy with that flavor of dill and lemon I love on all fish. It was filling but tasted lighter by not using the old can of condensed soup. Coupled with instant mashed potatoes and frozen broccoli it is a delicious and satisfying meal that will keep cabin fever at bay for a bit. You will also feel good using some of the items you stockpiled on your last frantic visit to the store.
I know a lot of us don’t think of seafood when hunkered down in a crisis. But this isn’t a snowstorm or another natural disaster. By and large the food supply chain is working and these shortages will probably even out. Unlike when we get dumped with three feet of snow, the grid is fine and so loading up the freezer with healthy, protein-dense seafood products is a good idea.