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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Fish and Brewis

I made fish and brewis (pronounced "bruise") for dinner on Good Friday. This is a meal that has a lot of nostalgic appeal to me. I associate fish and brewis with my childhood, and it is something that my Mom made fairy often whenever she could find the ingredients. The recipe originated a long time ago in Newfoundland, where it was prepared by sailors who were often at sea for long periods of time without access to fresh ingredients. Fish and brewis is very simple to make, as it only has three ingredients. Some of the ingredients are only readily available in Eastern Canada, but nowadays thanks to the internet, I can order them on-line.

Here are the ingredients: Purity Hard Bread, Dried Salt Cod, and Salt Pork Fat. The hard bread is a hard block of dried biscuit that will literally crack your teeth if you try to bite into it (sounds yummy eh?)... wait, it gets better. The Pork Fat gets fried up into little bits of heaven that Newfie's like to call, "scrunchions". So, you have to soak both the hard bread and the salt fish overnight to make them edible and then the next day it all gets fried up in the fat that has been rendered from the scrunchions. In Newfoundland, this meal is often served for breakfast to patients undergoing cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation. OK, I made that last bit up (about the cardiac patients, not the breakfast!)

I can honestly say that this was one of my all time favorite meals as a child (yes, I was a peculiar child). Apparently, my own children are NOT as peculiar because they hate fish and brewis. It is actually a little stressful for them, you see they hate the fish, but like the bruise. Problem is, once the dish is prepared, the two are pretty much indistinguishable. So the kids will be sitting there examining, and sniffing each morsel of food trying to determine what the heck it is...half the time they get it wrong, and fish comes flying back out in a projectile fashion, "nope not bread". Oh well, what can I say... they are "mainlanders".

Fish and Brewis

3 hard bread cakes
1 lb dried salt cod
1 cup cubed salt pork fat back (about 100g)

1. Soak the hard bread in a large bowl of cool water overnight at room temperature. Make sure you add a lot of water because these suckers really swell up.

2. Soak the dried salt cod overnight in cool water at room temperature. In the morning, you can change the water to help remove more of the salt.

3. When you are ready to eat, drain the fish and boil it for about 20 minutes in a fresh pot of water.

4. Meanwhile, fry up the cubes of pork fat in a large non-stick frying pan until they are golden brown and crispy. Remove the scrunchions with a slotted spoon and set aside.

5. Drain the hard bread, and the fish and add it to the frying pan with all the fat from the scrunctions. Fry this whole mixture up for about 5 minutes, breaking the larger chunks of fish and bread up with your spatula. Right before serving you can either mix the scrunchions back in, or sprinkle them on top.

6. Serve with a homemade tomato relish or chutney of some sort (mine is pictured with a caramelized onion chutney).