I was inspired to create this dish after a visit to my sister in North Jersey. We dined out at her country club, and my expectations were low.
The term “country-club food” is thrown around derisively in culinary circles, so I was a bit skeptical. But she assured me that, like many private clubs forced to compete with the explosion of restaurants and general “foodieness,” the place had upped its dining game. She spoke the truth, and we did have a really good meal.
I ordered this old-school cod on the theory that keeping it simple and staying in the lane where country club food normally drove was the right move, and it was terrific. I should also divulge that the other diners at my table ordered more adventurous meals and thoroughly enjoyed them, so maybe we need to revisit the whole “throwing shade on country club food” position. But I digress.
The cod was so terrific that I was inspired to recreate it in my kitchen. Any flaky white fish can be substituted for the cod — halibut, flounder, fluke, bass, grouper, etc. — just be sure to alter the cooking time per the thickness of the fish.
I used a 4-inch sleeve of Ritz crackers, which brought a buttery richness to the dish, but almost any cracker can be used. Pay attention to the flavor profile of the crackers; if they are infused with garlic or pepper this will change the taste. Of course, this meal won’t work during Passover, but it will taste really good afterward.
The cracker crumb brings a crunchy richness to the fish, so I opted to balance the meal with simpler sides: steamed carrots tossed with chopped parsley and Dijon vinaigrette cabbage salad (see below).
The simple cabbage salad is versatile; it is intended to mimic but elevate the classic “breaded fish and slaw” combo often seen at seafood shacks at the shore. The salad complements the fish well, but it can do double duty tomorrow on a sandwich or as a bed for tuna or chicken salad.
For dessert, like the sides, keep it simple — consider a sorbet, fresh fruit or some dark chocolate. I would steer clear of buttery cakes and creamy puddings as they might compete with the cracker crumb-coated cod.
Cracker Crumb Cod | Dairy (can be pareve with non-dairy butter substitute)
- 2 cod fillets (or other flaky white fish)
- Salt and pepper
- ¾ cup cracker crumbs
- Juice 1 lemon
- Zest of ½ lemon
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Chopped parsley for garnish
Line a baking dish or pie plate with parchment, and heat your oven to 300 degrees F.
Place the fillets on parchment, and sprinkle them generously with salt and pepper; spritz them with a bit of lemon (most of the lemon goes in the crumb mixture).
In a small bowl, melt the butter in the microwave. Add the garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest and a bit more salt and pepper. Stir to blend. Press the mixture gently onto the fish, covering the top and sides.
Bake it in the oven for 25 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. Check for doneness; the fish should flake easily and be opaque throughout. Toss chopped parsley over the fish, and serve it with lemon wedges.
Cabbage with Dijon Vinaigrette
White, red, napa or a combo of cabbages can be used here. If desired, shredded carrots, onions or kale can also be added.
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoon sugar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 6 cups shredded cabbage
Mix the dressing ingredients in the bottom of a large bowl. Add the cabbage, and toss it well. Let it sit for at least 20 minutes or refrigerate it overnight. This keeps for several days if sealed in the fridge.
Keri White is a Philadelphia-based freelance food writer.