In fall, as the migratory fish head out in search of warmer waters, the groundfish stick around New England. Species like cod, haddock, redfish and flounder are all considered groundfish — they live close to the ocean bottom and make up the fishery that’s been part of New England’s heritage for over 400 years.
Wulf’s carries cod and haddock from Iceland or the Gulf of Maine in the shop — the two flaky whitefish are almost interchangeable in terms of looks, flavor, and texture, but there are some differences.
To get a better sense of those differences, I broiled two filets with nothing but a little olive oil and salt, and then my son Quincy and I examined and tasted the differences.
It should be said that Quincy will devour almost any fish he’s offered — with gusto. So when he saw the cod and haddock side by side, I had to move fast to get him to take note that these were two different species before they were gobbled up.
Quincy: (between bites) VERY GOOD. Tastes good, tastes fresh.
Me: Cod has a denser flake than haddock — you can see it easily when the filets are raw. The texture is firm and muscular. Tastes slightly sweet and saline. I love to make quick fish stews this time of year — and cod is lovely in these because the chunks will stay together in the finished dish rather than flaking apart.
Quincy: It’s REALLY GOOD.
Me: What makes it so good?
Q: I dunno, it’s just, it’s — is there any left? This one’s my favorite.
Me: The haddock has a slightly more delicate texture and a finer flake. While both fish taste similar — sweet and saline — haddock’s flavor and texture are lighter in your mouth. If I were cooking a fish soup or stew, I might add the haddock in large pieces — even entire filets — at the end to maintain that lovely texture. Once it breaks down into a liquid, it can get a little lost, especially if the stew has other big competing flavors.
Either way, these are both staple seafood species in New England and can be used in a variety of different dishes, from brothy chowders to saffron-laced stews, or just simply rubbed with garlicky buttered breadcrumbs and baked. And clearly - they can be very kid-friendly.