Cod has been a New England staple since time immemorial, having been enjoyed by the native Americans and expounded upon, culinarily, by the influx of Europeans. Creamed Cod is an age-old recipe that deserves to be just subtly Yanked. I think you will find this recipe below a perfect example of leaving well enough alone on one hand, yet minimally ‘tweaked’ for today’s’ palate. Let me know what you think. 6 slices pumpernickel or rye bread
1 1/2 pound cod fillets, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 cups milk, divided
1 bay leaf
Pinch ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup flour
6 ounces mild white Cheddar cheese, shredded or diced
2 pounds potatoes, cooked, cooled and cut into 1-inch cubes
6 ounces smoked ham, diced
1 cup frozen peas and/or carrots
Butter-flavored cooking spray
Preheat oven to 400-degrees F. Put bread on a baking sheet and bake 10-15 minutes, or until dried; remove to cool. Meanwhile, place cod in a medium saucepan with 1 1/2 cups milk and bay leaf so that fish is covered. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. When bubbling, reduce heat to low and simmer 4-5 minutes, or until fish flakes. Remove from heat and remove fish with a slotted spoon onto a plate; set aside.
Remove bay leaf from pan of milk and add remainder of milk along with nutmeg, salt and pepper, whisking well. Return to heat and bring to a boil over medium heat. Meanwhile, whisk 3/4 cup of the hot milk with flour; adding back into the saucepan.
When starting to boil, add cheese, whisking well. Remove from heat and continue whisking until cheese has completely melted; set aside.
Add cooked potatoes to an 11 x 7-inch baking pan. Add the ham over the top along with vegetables. Top with cooked cod and pour milk/cheese mixture over the top evenly. Crush dried bread in a bowl, spraying with cooking spray to wet well. Evenly top "casserole" with bread crumbs and bake 30-35 minutes, or until the bread cubes are well browned and the dish is bubbling.
Chef Jim Baley -- The Yankee Chef -- is a noted food columnist, cookbook author and the foremost New England Food Historian. He is a third generation chef and historian and lives in Maine with his wife and four children. He welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.