our series, Hooked: Newlyweds in The Kitchen, is where Boston-based couple Kim Watson Ito and Justin Ito-Adler chronicle their love of seafood and a whole lot of quarantine cooking. follow their adventures here and on instagram and facebook at #hookedonwulfs
Kim: Cod is another one of those fish that just doesn’t excite me. Maybe it’s some association with puritanical New England or Pilgrims or something. I’ve never had it prepared in any way that wasn’t white, bland and boring. It’s one of those fish I picture cooked in an oven with breadcrumbs and served next to a lemon wedge and a steaming pile of broccoli. Like it’s fine for a diet, but otherwise I’ll pass. What was cool about this Wulf’s order was that we received cod cheeks. Cue up another lesson in fish anatomy from my chef de cuisine Justin and we were off.
Justin: So the plan here is cod cheeks vs. cod loin. I’m definitely more excited for the cheeks than the loin. I’m not even sure why I ordered the cod. There is nothing wrong with cod, butI find it a little boring...it’s straightforward. Consistent. Tourists love it. Grandparents love it. You can probably find something cheaper or better, but it isn’t going to offend anyone. It's like a Sam Adams Lager or a ground-rule double. In the end, it is a fish that makes you say, “that was actually pretty good.”
Kim: Yeah, okay. I’m already reaching for the hot sauce.
Justin: Right, down to business. Because cod is very mild I’m going SUPER simple. Salt. Pepper. Medium hot pan with olive oil. End scene. I’m sure there are some creative things you can do with it, but if you are going to pay for cod vs. a lesser white fish why not potentially know that it is cod? Plus, I want to see if the cheeks have a different taste. Generally, I love the flavor of a fish cheek. It’s one of the pieces that you serve yourself from a whole fish if you know what you’re doing. A lot of flavor and a lot of texture.
Kim: Medium hot pan with olive oil. Sounds very splashy.
Justin: We’ll eat the two with purple heirloom potatoes, sauteed garlic spinach and Bomba Pugliese (a spicy eggplant-pepper sauce that I have been putting on everything). The biggest take away for me is that cod cheeks are a completely different flavor profile than cod loin. They're about the size of diver scallops so they cook very quickly. They are brinier than the loin and the don’t flake.
Kim: Now we’re talking. This feels almost like a duck to chicken comparison. The cod cheeks are meatier, more flavorful, and have a rich, decadent feel to them. I’m honestly shocked they’re part of the same fish.
Justin: I have a hard time saying which I like better because they are so different. What I think sets cod apart from other white fish — and it is a very small detail — is how it flakes. You can get a nice sear on it, but they are such floppy fish (seriously, look at one…) that the loin often flakes to the point where you can push it apart with a spoon. The cheek is denser and brinier. I think I oversalted it not realizing what it would taste like. I would be interested in attempting a different prep next time, maybe frying or grilling, to see how it reacts. Really tasty.
Kim: Really tasty, and I’m so glad you added a spicy component. You’re the best.
Justin: Turns out we have a lot of leftovers because we had to open both packs of fish, so we decided to make cod chowder. Kim was not excited. The fish chowder actually ended up being better than the original dish. I used milk instead of cream, a bunch of ground pepper and added some herbs. Highly recommend. Sometimes the classics work, I guess…
Kim: Not bad for boring Pilgrim-person food. Not bad at all. Plus, we can feel confident in the sourcing of this fish because, well, it’s Wulf’s!
In the end, you know what? Cod, despite our prejudices, you were kind of like drinking a Sam Adams after a day of playing softball. Actually pretty good. And after the year we’ve had, sometimes boring can be a welcome change.