Microgadus Tomcod (Walbaum) or Atlantique Tom Cod are this fish's scientific names. Most commonly, however, it is called small channel fish (petit poisson des chenaux), Christmas fish, small cod, loach or Tommy cod. The average lenght of this species is around 15 cm for the female. Some may reach a maximum length of 38 cm, but these are exceptions. The average weight is 45 grams to a maximum of 570 grams.
Normally, a Tommy cod has a very short lifespan of about 3 years but it can reach the age of 8 years. It produces an average of 8600 eggs per year ; a minimum of 1000 eggs to a maximum of 46,000, which explains their abundance in the Ste-Anne River. Year one year with another, fishermen catch between 300 and 400 tons of tom cods. Despite this apparent volume, the harvest remains modest if compared to the quantity of tom cods present in the area. The total volume caught represents only between one and three percent of all the fish that comes back to spawn in the Ste-Anne River.
Here are some words of advice on how to prepare Tom cod fish :
As soon as the fish is unhooked, it should be immediately thrown on the ice so that it can freeze instantly to preserve its already fine and tasty flavour. To be pan-fried, the fish should be fresh or frozen alive and not partially thawed.
Frozen this way, the small fish is easy to prepare. Put on a pair of gloves, hold the fish with one hand and use the other one to cut the fins and the tail.
Most of the work has been done now.
Lay the fish on a wooden board and, using a sharp knife (preferably big enough to avoid accidents), you push on it with both hands to cut off the head.
These operations are always done when the fish is frozen. That is why a pair of gloves and a good knife should be used.
Now, lay the fish on its side, and press fimly on your knife to eviscerate it.
Use your thumb or a tooth brush for cleaning, if necessary.
It's as simple as that. Keep the fish eggs for caviar or omelet lovers.
Clean the fish and let it soak in salted water for about 15 minutes. It's now time to pick a recipe.
Be ingenious when decorating your dishes. If time is running out, just add some greens : lettuce, cress, celery leaves and parsley sprigs.
Fried fish is very easy to prepare. Roll the fish in flour and simply fry it in a buttered or oiled pan. Turn it over only once. Season with salt, pepper and paprika.
When cooked, serve immediately.
TOM COD STEW (BOUILLOTTE)
Here is a fabulous recipe. The quantity depends on your needs...
Prepare the fish as mentioned in the section called 'Preparation'.
Put some butter in a large cooking pot. You may use a few slices of salted pork instead of butter.
At the botton, place a row of sliced potatoes, then a row of tom cod and a row of onions. Repeat the rows three or four times alternating potatoes, fish, sliced onions. On top, add another piece of salted pork, season with salt and pepper. Then add enough water to cover the potatoes.
Let simmer on the stove for three hours. If you prefer to use the oven, add one more hour to the cooking time.
TOM COD CHOWDER
- 2 thin slices of salted pork, diced
- 15 ml (1 tablespoon) of butter
- 1 large onion, minced
- 125 ml (1/2 cup) of celery, finely diced
- 15 ml (1 tablespoon) of all-purpose flour
- 500 ml (2 cups) of water
- 500 ml (2 cups) of potatoes, diced
- 15 ml (1 tablespoon) of salt
- 1 sprig of thyme
- 500 gr. (1 lb.) of tom cod prepared for cooking
- 500 ml (2 cups) of hot milk
- 15 ml (1 tablespoon) of parsley
Cook lard in butter. Add onions and celery and continue cooking until the ingredients are tender but retaining their colours.
Sprinkle with flour and cook a few minutes while stirring. Add water and continue cooking until boiling point, always keep stirring. Add potatoes, salt, pepper and thyme.
Cover and cook on low heat (20 minutes). Place fish over the potatoes and continue cooking for 10 minutes. Add milk and, after a few minutes, check seasonings.
(Bulletin des agriculteurs, February 1985)
TOM COD AU GRATIN
- 1 kg (2 lbs) of Tom cod
- 125 ml (1/2 cup) of milk
- 2 ml (1/2 teaspoon) of salt
- Bread crumbs
- 50 ml (4 tablespoon) of melted butter
- 15 ml (1 tablespoon) of grated lemon zest
Empty and wash the fish. Soak in milk to which salt has been added. Then roll in bread crumbs and place in a greased casserole. Pour melted butter on top and flavour with grated lemon zest.
Cook in the oven at 225C (450 F) for about ten minutes or until flesh separates easily from the big bone.