Picking up recipes during travel: Newfoundland fish & brewis

DSC00629It’s only rarely that we pick up recipes in our travels.  As often as we dine in wonderful places and eat amazing dishes, it’s clear to us that recreating them at home usually leads to disappointment.  But there are sometime extenuating circumstances…

We haven’t traveled to Art’s original home in St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador, for a few years, which we wrote about in a previous blog post, but every so often the nostalgic memories of food from a different life and time overtake us, and we pull out the old fish and brewis recipe to embark on what we lovingly and respectfully call “Newfie Night” for a few dear friends.

But cooking fish and brewis for entertaining can be a challenge – have you ever smelled salt cod when it’s boiling away on the stove?  It is truly revolting.  So, we had to find a way to (a) reduce the cooking smell, and (b) involve the guests in the preparation of the meal.

DSC00466Traditional Newfoundland fish and brewis represents a culinary tradition that is based more on practicality than intention – but the practical obstacles to acquisition of ingredients seems to have sparked incredible creativity on the part of cooks all over ‘the Rock’ throughout its history.  For many years, the availability of fresh ingredients throughout the long, cold winters resulted in a plethora of salted cod and items like hard bread which were both practically indestructible – and no refrigeration needed.  So, cooks prepared a dish that used this hard bread and boiled salt cod with a dressing of pure pork fat and scrunchions – which are without any doubt the tastiest part of any dish to which they are added.  Scrunchions, for those of you who have not had the pleasure, are small pieces of pure pork fat fried to a delightful crispiness.  The taste is unadulterated joy – but be sure to have your cholesterol checked!

During our last Newfie Night for friends, we decided to document the method we use.  It’s a tweaked version of authentic fish and brewis.  Tweaks include using boned salt cod (to avoid having to remove bones and the possibility of missing one), adding oregano for flavor, and frying it up in the fat rather than pouring it over to improve both the color (visual presentation) and the texture (a bit of crispiness).

It is surprisingly delicious – and guests even asked for seconds!  Here’s the video…