Bring Newfoundland Home with a Comfort-Food Classic

Chef Jeremy Charles cooks us a traditional cod supper.

In this series, a Canada’s Best New Restaurants chef shares a recipe to inspire our home cooking adventures.
 

We have all been getting better acquainted (maybe too much) with our home kitchens. Even chefs. To help you find inspiration, we asked St. John’s native Jeremy Charles – the only chef to win Canada’s Best New Restaurant twice, for his restaurant Raymonds and as chef of Atlantica (now closed) – to show us what he’s been cooking.

In early March, Charles and partners closed their restaurants Raymonds and Merchant Tavern in order to avoid putting staff at risk. Suddenly, the chef found he had unexpected extra time to cook for his family, deliver meals to friends and tie flies for the upcoming fishing season. (The Merchant Tavern reopened in early April to serve take-out, and fielded 600 orders for fish and chips on Good Friday.)

June 5, 2020
Jeremy Charles fishing in Newfoundland
A gif of the cover and two inside spreads from Jeremy Charles' cookbook "Wildness: An Ode to Newfoundland and Labrador"
Chef Charles scouting a fly-fishing spot.   Photo: John Cullen
Wildness features an entire section on the Newfoundland larder.    Photo: Phaidon

Charles chose to share his recipe for Fish and Brewis, a comfort classic made from ingredients that can be found in any proper Newfoundland larder: fatback pork, hardtack and salt cod (recipe below). It is featured in his cookbook, Wildness: An Ode to Newfoundland and Labrador, published by Phaidon last fall. Wildness opens a window on the island’s unique cuisine, through the eyes of a chef whose understanding of its ingredients goes all the way to the bogs, barrens and rivers where he forages and fishes in his spare time.

Recipe for Fish and Brewis, Scrunchions and Drawn Butter

 

 

For the Fish and Brewis and the scrunchions

Serves 4–6

  • 450 g boneless salt cod

  • 2 pieces hard bread or hard tack

  • 50 g fatback pork, cur into small dice

  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced lengthwise

  • 4 medium potatoes, cut into medium dice

  • salt and pepper
     

For the drawn butter

  • 100 g unsalted butter

  • 2 onions, cut into fine dice

  • 2½ tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 375 ml hot water

  • sea salt and pepper
     

Directions

  1. Make the fish and brewis and the scrunchions: About 24 hours before preparation, soak the salt cod in cold water in a bowl. Ensure you change the water 2-3 times during the soaking process.

  2. Soak the hard bread or hard tack in water in a separate bowl overnight.

  3. Set a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the fatback dice and fry for 5-7 minutes until rendered, golden, and crispy. These are now scrunchions. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the scrunchions to a bowl. Set aside and keep warm. Remove 1 tablespoon of the pork fat from the skillet and reserve.

  4. Add the sliced onion to the skillet and fry over medium heat for 45 minutes, until translucent.

  5. Drain the salt cold of soaking water, place it in a saucepan, and cover with fresh water. Simmer over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, until cooked through and flaky. Remove the fish from the saucepan and set aside, keeping it warm.

  6. While the cod is simmering, put the potato dice into a medium saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Boil until the potatoes are almost cooked through. Now drain the soaking hard bread, lay it on top of the potato, and continue to cook for 3-4 minutes, to allow the bread to warm and steam. When your potato is cooked, remove it and the bread from the saucepan and place in a large bowl.

  7. Make the drawn butter: Heat the butter in a skillet over low heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5-7 minutes, until translucent. Stir in the flour to make a roux. Add the hot water and stir constantly until the mixture has thickened. Season with salt and pepper.

  8. Flake apart your salt cod, then add the flakes, along with the caramelized onion, to the bowl containing the potato and bread. Add salt and pepper to taste. Fold everything together, then serve with drawn butter, the reserved pork fat, and scrunchions.
     

From the book Wildness: An Ode to Newfoundland and Labrador, by Jeremy Charles and Adam Leith Gollner (©Phaidon, 2019).

Fish and brewis dish created by chef Jeremy Charles
   Photo: John Cullen

The Questionnaire

  • Dream seatmate Salmon fisherman and conservationist Lee Wulff.

  • First travel memory A family trip to Montreal in 1986 to see Mario Lemieux during his second season. I still have the ticket.

  • Last trip Edmonton, for a week as chef-in-residence at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.

  • Favourite souvenir A hand-made Viper pocket knife I picked up in Italy.

  • Travel has the power to… Help you appreciate your own backyard.

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