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Sharon Jessup Joyce

Fresh haddock is delicious. And here on Nova Scotia’s South Shore, haddock is the fish you will find most often on restaurant menus. Olivia is particularly fond of the haddock taco at Two Doors Down in Halifax, while I love their haddock burger, sans bacon, topped with their addictive housemade green relish. We regularly enjoy classic fish and chips at Shaw’s Landing in West Dover, while Rhubarb, located in Indian Harbour (just 4 minutes from our house), offers a delicious gluten-free fish and chips. This week, when Diane treated Livy and me to lunch at Rhubarb, I substituted a side salad for the fries and still walked away well satisfied because of my generous portion of fish.

Haddock is served (better)

But perhaps the most classic way to serve haddock is pan-fried. You can get pan-fried haddock done very well at lots of restaurants on the South Shore, but two places where we order it regularly are at the Seaside Shanty in Chester Basin and at Athens in Halifax. Pan-fried haddock is also easy to do at home. It’s all about buying the nicest, freshest haddock you can find — fortunately plentiful in this region — and not overcooking it.
Haddock in milk (better)
Pan-fried haddock

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 4 small or 2 large haddock fillets
  • Enough milk to cover fish (about 1 cup, usually)
  • Enough flour to coat fish (I use about 1/2 cup and waste a little)
  • Seasoning of your choice (Old Bay is classic, but I have used Sarah’s Sea Salt’s Tuscan Salt, Cajun spice mix, steak spice or just salt and pepper)
  • 2-3 tablespoons oil for frying (I use sunflower oil)
  • Fresh dill and/or chive and lemon wedge as garnishes

Directions

  1. Lay fish pieces in flat baking dish — I usually use a cake pan — and pour enough cold milk over them to barely cover.Haddock in flour (better)
  2. Let fish sit in milk in fridge for 20-30 minutes.
  3. Mix flour and desired seasonings together and spread out on plate or flat dish.
  4. Put oil in skillet and bring slowly up to medium-high heat.
  5. Drain milk from fish. At this point, you can pat the fish dry with paper towels or leave it slightly damp with milk. Drying the fish gives you a thinner coating of flour, while leaving it damp means you have a crunchier coating (and you will use more flour, so add a bit to your coating container).
  6. Place coated fillets gently into hot oil, being careful not to break fish.
  7. Cook on one side for 1-2 minutes (depending on thickness of fish), then turn gently and carefully, using a heat-proof spatula or pancake flipper. Don’t worry if the fish piece breaks in half when you are turning it.
  8. Cook on the other side for 1-2 minutes.
  9. Remove fish from oil and place on plate covered with double-thickness paper towel. Gently pat off excess oil.
  10. Serve immediately.Haddock in skillet (better)If you don’t eat wheat, substitute the flour of your choice. You don’t even need flour. Corn meal gives a lovely crunchy texture, as do crushed potato chips. You can even omit the coating and just sprinkle the fish with your favourite seasoning and fry it that way.

The fishmonger at Pete’s in Halifax gave me another soaking tip. Instead of milk, soak fish in slightly salted ice water. I tried it, and found that it firmed the flesh as well as the milk, but reduced the browning of the fish fillet’s crust, since the sugars in the milk promote browning. You will definitely need to pat the fish dry if you use the salt water instead of milk for soaking.

Pan-fried haddock should be eaten right away. In theory, you can keep cooked pieces warm in the oven while you cook more fish, but in reality the kept-warm portions will be as disappointing as waffles or latkes given the same treatment. When I make pan-fried haddock, I ask each person to start eating as soon as they get their plate filled. I don’t usually have to ask twice.

Gorgeous morning

 

Sharon lives in Kingston, Ontario, but is presently spending the month at the family’s Nova Scotia coastal cottage, from which her husband will have to forcibly remove her.
Welcome to our family’s discussion forum on food. If you’d like to submit a post, please consider yourself family, and email us at familyfoodforum@gmail.com.

After a good dinner, one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”

– Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance

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Easy baked chicken, two ways

Sharon Jessup Joyce

St Margarets Bay on a sunny spring Friday

Welcome to Season 2 of Always a Good Dinner!

Okay, that isn’t quite what happened, and I know this isn’t a television show. I admit it, I got busy — and I guess everyone else did, too — and I neglected this blog. But now that we’ve all survived a long, cold winter and local garden bounty is just beginning, maybe we can gather around the blog once a week to share some more stories, recipes and photos.

Today’s post is not inspired, but it’s practical. I’m alone at the Nova Scotia house for the week, and I want to spend less time cooking and more time walking the dog, reading, knitting, sewing, writing and enjoying scenes like the one above, from our deck off the kitchen. I turn out to be one of those people who loves to cook for others and can’t be bothered cooking for herself. But chicken and [insert your preferred sides] usually appeals to me, and I’ll do it for myself if I can cook up a lot of chicken and freeze it in a format that reheats well. Fortunately, boneless, skinless chicken breasts were on sale at our local Atlantic Superstore  — or Loblaws, as we call it in Ontario — so I picked up eight and used ingredients I happened to have on hand to bake the chicken two ways. I know the first dish features fall flavours, but I wanted to use up ingredients I had languishing in the fridge (another downside to cooking for one).

Chicken breasts, apple and onionBaked chicken with apple and onion

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of icky bits
  • 1 cooking or white onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed or diced (optional)
  • 3 apples; I used Macs, because that’s what I had on hand
  • Several leaves fresh sage; I used rosemary, since I had no sage, but this dish is better with sage
  • Several sprigs fresh thyme (be more generous with the thyme than with sage or rosemary)
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup boiled apple cider
  • 1 ounce Calvados (French apple brandy)
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Brush sides and bottom of baking dish with about 1 tablespoon olive oil.
  2. Slice onion, dice garlic and slice peeled apples; lay in layers on bottom of dish.
  3. Lay herbs on top of onion and apple slices.
  4. Lay chicken breasts on top.
  5. Mix remaining olive oil, mustard, vinegar, cider and Calvados and pour over chicken.
  6. If desired, season with salt and pepper.
  7. Bake, covered, in a 350 degree oven for about 30-35 minutes; remove cover and turn chicken breasts over (don’t worry if other components are disarranged) and bake for another 10 minutes.

You can refrigerate this for 3 days, or package it up right away for the freezer. When you reheat this dish, pick out and discard sage leaves and thyme twigs, and set the chicken aside. Mix about a tablespoon of corn starch with about 1/4 cup chicken stock, cream or more cider with Calvados (about half and half) and add to the saved pan juices, apples and onions. Pour the mixture over the chicken breasts and heat for about 20 minutes in a 325-degree oven. This is really nice with mashed potatoes and a little salad, but it goes with lots of things. If you eat it by itself, which I did today, you can call the onion and apple slices your side dish.

Chicken breasts with southwest flavours

Baked chicken with southwest flavours

No recipe is required for this dish. I brushed a baking dish with olive oil. Then I diced some leftover items from the fridge: a jalapeno pepper, half a sweet red pepper, half an onion and a handful of cilantro. I put the chicken pieces (breasts sliced in 3-4 pieces and tenderloins, so all the pieces would be about the same size) on top of the veggies. I brushed the pieces with a bit of olive oil and squeezed the juice of one-half lime over them. Then I sprinkled the chicken with salt, pepper, chipotle chili powder and just a bit of maple sugar. I baked the chicken, uncovered, for 30 minutes in a 350-degree oven. Again, I kept all the pan juices and veggie bits when I packaged the chicken in bags for the freezer.

You can do about a million things with these southwest chicken pieces. My favourite is to serve them over rice and corn with a dollop of sour cream, a spoonful of homemade salsa, a sprinkle of fresh cilantro, diced scallions and just a squeeze of lime.

And the crows love the chicken scraps, as you see. Here is today’s sentry, who has called the flock, but lands first to score the biggest piece.

Crow swoops in for chicken closeup

 

 

Sharon lives in Kingston, Ontario, but is presently spending a month at the family’s Nova Scotia coastal cottage, and promises to post a fish dish soon.
Welcome to our family’s discussion forum on food. If you’d like to submit a post, please consider yourself family, and email us at familyfoodforum@gmail.com.

After a good dinner, one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”

– Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance