Cod tongues, moose and alligator tails

Early on in my Newfoundland exploits, I learned of the traditional dishes of cod tongues and cod cheeks. I was raised on simple Irish cooking, bland meat and potatoes, so this was an adventure. Traditionally the tongues and cheeks are fried in salt pork and served up hot and fresh, but many chefs are taking advantage of their scarcity to try out new and adventurous recipes with unusual spices to bring notoriety to their establishments. They have become a bit of a delicacy because cod stocks are depleting. The tongues are rarely found in regular markets as they are most often taken out with the cheeks and sold at the wharf.

In a bygone era, it was common place to see young lads carrying buckets of tongues and cheeks to sell door to door, to earn a little pocket money.

You did not know that cod had cheeks? This is the part of the fish that is just below the eye, it is most delicate and soft, like the tenderloin of the pig or cow and there are no bones.

But there is something you should know if you are going to try it. There are different ways to prepare the tongue for market. Some places give you the whole tongue. Others trim it up first. The untrimmed tongue has a glutinous jelly like consistency that can startle your taste buds when you first dig in. It can be slippery going down and will perk up some senses that have been lazing around. Try some yourself. All you need is some tongues or cheeks, rinse and moisten with milk, dredge them in some flour with a little salt and pepper, fry lightly in some salt pork or oil and serve it up hot with your favourite veggies, potatoes and crispy rendered pork bits called scrunchins.

Since I had taken the plunge with tongues and cheeks, it wasn’t a far stretch to accept a lunch invitation of canned moose.  It wasn’t so much in a can, rather in a bottle, like your mother used to can the summer berries but they were in little jars with paraffin seals. I thought of the days my mom would order a side of beef, I revelled in all the cuts of meat  wrapped in the butcher’s brown freezer paper, labelled and stacked neatly in the freezer in the basement.  Moose was an everyday meal at my new friend’s house, not a rare occurrence. The bottle of moose came up from the cellar and was prepared into a hearty stew with root vegetables. The meal wasn’t heavy; it was hearty for the midday meal.  The taste was surprising. I expected it to taste like the tough old cow we got at Uncle Ed’s place. But this was light, delicate and very tender with a slightly stronger scent and it was absolutely delightful.

Recently, in Florida, I discovered a menu of Alligator tail and Grouper cheeks. Stay tuned for that escapade.