An abundant fish, this family includes cod,
This somewhat flaky, mild flavored, firm-fleshed, cold water fish has been
a staple in kitchens since medieval times. The abundance of this fish off
the coast of New England was one reason for the rapid colonization of that
area during the early part of United States history.
This family forms almost one-half of the world commercial catch of fish each year. In most markets, the sandy- brown Atlantic cod and the Pacific cod are indistinguishable. However, the Atlantic is preferred in the United States and Europe while the Pacific is exported to Japan and Russia.
Atlantic Cod weighing 100 pounds have been caught in the past. Continued large-scale harvesting has dwindled supplies to the point of scarcity. Anything currently caught over 25 pounds is classed as jumbo and left in the sea. Scrod is a term that often appears on menus. This is not a fish, but a size classification of the cod family, ranging from 1.5 to 2.5 pounds. Salted dried cod was for years a staple in the diet of many coastal cultures. However, with improved technology it has lost some of its popularity. Fresh and frozen cod are more readily available now. The cod is used in a variety of ways. Cod oil is an important source of vitamins, cod roe is eaten fresh, smoked or salted. The cheeks of cod are sweet and sold separately, as is the tongue. Cod flesh is good for all types of preparation; however, it is already a very moist fish so poaching sometimes makes it soggy.
The haddock is a close relative of the cod, but less abundant. It is easily identified by the black mark resembling a thumb print behind the gills. Also a cold water fish, its flesh is slightly softer than that of the cod and it is smaller in size.
Hake and whiting are inferior to the cod, having a much softer flesh. They are often poached, steamed or pureed into quenelles or mousselines for this reason. Hake is generally larger than whiting and can reach 25 pounds. Whiting is sold under one pound in weight.
Atlantic pollack is similar in flavor to the hake, but has a coarser texture. Its gray flesh whitens when cooked. This fish is currently a popular source of surimi, a seafood analog such as artificial crab meat. Pollack is found in both the Atlantic and Pacific.