Bring Home a Taste of Fogo Island With These Classic Recipes for Cod au Gratin and Seafood Chowder
There’s no better way to showcase the bounty of the seas surrounding Fogo Island, N.L., than with a rich, creamy chowder. Photo: ahirao_photo/Getty Images
In the town of Fogo on Fogo Island, off the northeastern coast of Newfoundland, a café called Bangbelly has become an integral part of the community since launching in the summer of 2018.
Chef and co-owner Ian Sheridan came to cooking after “grinding away in the world of pharmaceutical sales.” He worked in Vancouver before hearing about the Fogo Island Inn and heading east two weeks later. At the inn, he rose to sous chef while learning about Newfoundland and Labrador ingredients and cooking traditions. Then he met his partner, Caitlyn Terry, and they decided to open their own café.
The name Bangbelly refers to a traditional dish made of stale bread and pork fat, and every family makes their own version. The café is a “home-away-from-home, and a place for community” where everyone from lifelong Fogo Islanders to short-term visitors feels welcomed. The menu is a mix of classic comfort food and their take on some provincial favourites, with a focus on ethical and sustainable food.
Why is cod so important in Newfoundland and Labrador, and what does it mean to Fogo Island?
The rich waters surrounding Newfoundland and Labrador have fuelled the European fish trade for centuries. Fogo Island was settled in the mid-1700s and the fishing industry has been at its core ever since. To this day, old fishing traditions still exist on Fogo Island, and during the annual food fishery salt cod can be seen drying around the shores. The near extinction of cod, brought about by international factory overfishing, resulted in a moratorium on cod fishing in 1992. This declaration caused dramatic changes to Fogo Island’s fishery, which had to adapt to fishing other species. Now, cod are having a renaissance of sorts, and we are grateful that it can once again be enjoyed responsibly.
Do’s and Don’ts of Cod
What have you learned about cooking with cod? Best and worst way to cook it? Favourite flavours to pair it with? Fun ways to serve it?
The most important thing to keep in mind when cooking cod is to keep it simple. Cod has a light, clean flavour, a fine, flaky texture, and is a great vessel for flavour. You can bake it, you can fry it, you can poach it, you can steam it, you can grill it — just don’t overcook it. The sweet and salty pairing of a miso and barbecue glaze is one of my favourite ways to bake a whole cod fillet.
What can’t you live without, either at work or at home?
Outport living on Fogo Island means a lot of cooking at home. Whether it’s at home, or at the café, my must-haves include a list of culinary supplies. First, for umami, I always require a good supply of tamari and miso. The other essential element for my kitchen is a well-stocked spice rack (think more the size of a bookcase). In our spare time, we love to cook food from all over the globe, and although we may not have access to all of the fresh ingredients and produce that we dream of, a comprehensive spice repertoire can help create deep flavours that will transport you wherever you wish to go.
Bangbelly’s Cod au Gratin With Roasted Cabbage
This version of Cod au Gratin captures the heart and soul of the classic dish, but in a lighter, more herbaceous way. “We think Newfoundland cuisine is some of the best there is,” says Sheridan, “which is why we love putting our skills to the test by perfecting the classics, and challenge ourselves to put a new spin on them.”
Makes 4 servings
50 g canola oil
50 g unsalted butter
200 g onion, finely diced
25 g garlic, minced
4 g dried savoury
50 g all-purpose flour
45 ml fresh lemon juice
100 ml buttermilk
400 ml whole milk
200 g cream cheese, softened, cut into pieces
Kosher salt + freshly ground black black pepper
1 small green cabbage
Kosher salt + freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp unsalted butter
450 g baby potatoes, halved
400 g turnip, peeled, cut in wedges
400 g carrots, peeled, cut in rounds
300 g celery, thinly sliced
Cod and Crumbs:
4 cod fillets (about 7 to 8 oz each)
Kosher salt + freshly ground black pepper
100 g dried breadcrumbs
100 g cheddar cheese, grated
100 g unsalted butter, melted
2 g dried summer savoury
Sliced green onions
1. For the sauce, heat the oil and butter in a heavy-bottom sauce pan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and savoury and cook until the onions become translucent, about 5 minutes. Don’t allow the onions to brown as this will turn your sauce an unappealing colour. Add flour and stir, allowing the pan to dry out. Once your pan is dry, add the lemon juice and buttermilk, and stir until combined and thick. Slowly add whole milk, stirring vigorously without splashing yourself. Turn heat to low. Add the cream cheese and let it melt into the sauce, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm. Alternately, make ahead and reheat gently when needed.
2. For the vegetables, rub the cabbage with oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake on a parchment-lined tray in a preheated 425 F oven for 20 minutes. Cover cabbage firmly with foil, then continue baking until tender, about 25 to 30 more minutes. Let cool slightly and then cut into 8 wedges, discarding the core.
3. Meanwhile, bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add butter and 1 tsp of salt.
4. Boil each vegetable separately, until tender but not too soft, and then immediately transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. For potatoes and turnips, this may take 6 to 8 minutes. For carrots, 4 to 5 minutes. For celery, 2 minutes. Drain and transfer chilled vegetables to a large bowl with cabbage wedges. Drizzle everything with olive oil.
5. For the cod and crumbs, dry fillets with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
6. In a medium bowl, stir together bread crumbs, cheddar, melted butter and summer savoury. Generously top each cod portion with crumb mixture.
7. Bake cod in a preheated 425 F oven until cooked through, about 8 to 10 minutes.
8. Arrange oil-tossed vegetable mixture on a baking sheet. Reheat in a 425F oven until hot, about 10 to 15 minutes.
9. To serve, spoon about 6 oz of sauce onto each of 4 plates, covering the bottom. Place potatoes, turnips, carrots and celery in the middle of each plate. Top each plate with cod. Serve 2 wedges of cabbage alongside each piece of fish. Garnish each serving with parsley and green onions.
Bangbelly’s Seafood Chowder
There’s no better way to showcase the bounty of the seas surrounding Fogo Island than with a rich, creamy chowder. Featuring fresh cod, salt fish and sweet cold water shrimp, Bangbelly’s chowder is different with every spoonful. The flavour of the salt fish in the broth brings an unexpected punch of flavour. The base consists of potato and onion and avoids flour, which results in a smooth, velvety texture instead of the gluey texture so common in other chowders. Serve with rolls or toast, if desired.
Makes 4 servings
2 litres (8 cups) water
5 g kosher salt
800 g russet potatoes, peeled, cut in chunks
450 g onion, chopped
300 g celery, chopped
1 whole carrot, peeled
5 cloves garlic, smashed
100 g salt fish, soaked overnight in cold water, rinsed
250 ml white wine
50 ml lemon juice
400 g russet potatoes, cubed
400 g carrots, rounds
200 g celery, sliced
450 g fresh cod, cut in 1-inch pieces
500 ml whipping cream
200 g cold water shrimp, cooked
Chopped celery leaf
Chopped fresh parsley
Cracked black pepper
1. For the base, add the water to a large pot with salt, potato, onion, celery, carrot and garlic. Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce to a simmer. Add salt fish and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until fish is cooked through. Remove fish from liquid, let cool, then flake and reserve. To the pot, add wine and lemon juice. Return pot to a simmer and cook until potatoes are soft, about 20 to 25 minutes.
2. Remove the pot from heat. Strain out the vegetables, reserving the broth. Discard the carrot, then transfer the remaining vegetables to a blender and add enough reserved broth to cover. Blend on high, until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes, adding more broth as necessary. The texture should be smooth and thick, yet pourable.
3. For the chowder, in a large pot of water, boil the potatoes, carrots and celery separately, until they are tender, but not too soft. Shock in ice water immediately after cooking. For the potatoes, expect the cooking time to be 5 to 6 minutes. For the carrots, 4 to 5 minutes. For the celery, 2 minutes.
4. Pour the blended soup base into a large, clean saucepan. Add fresh cod and cream. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, then add the blanched vegetables. Once cod is cooked through, add pre-cooked shrimp and reserved flaked salt fish. Simmer until everything is hot. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
5. Ladle chowder into 4 bowls. Top each with parsley, celery leaf and pepper.
A version of this story was originally published on May 10, 2022.