This is New England through and through. Thinking about this recipe makes me feel like I’m down on the Cape in the summer, instead of in Los Angeles in the winter. You can almost smell lobsters boiling, potatoes cooking, and the briny wonderful aroma of a restaurant by the sea. Restaurants like that, especially on the Cape, or southern Maine, are held to very rigid expectations. You expect to have lobster, Wellfleet oysters on the half, chowdah, BLTs, and of course fresh and simply prepared northern Atlantic seafood. Cod, sword, salmon, Pat’s clams, Nantucket diver scallops, bluefin tuna, butter fish… whatever else the boat brought back. Catch of the Day, excellent stuff.
When I say ‘simply prepared’, I mean let those incredible flavors speak for themselves. Do only what is required to make the seafood palatable, cooked if necessary, and delicious. And it doesn’t require much. It’s almost a theme through the entire blog: simple is more often than not better. Simple, like this recipe. The minute you try to complicate it is the minute you ruin it. Trust me, I’ve ruined too many over the years.
This recipe is a simple recipe, easy to make, and classic in every way. Ritz crackers covering fresh haddock, baked with a little white wine and butter until golden brown. It’s a little slice of the Cape in your home any time of year. And it’s so good. Is this restaurant food? Absolutely. No need to get fancy for this one, the simpler the better. Do this right, and you’ll fall in love with seafood all over again.
About the recipe: I add a few east coast ‘secret’ touches, which really aren’t secrets at all. Add a little old bay for a well rounded flavor profile, some cayenne for a hint of heat, horseradish to balance the buttery cracker (and the butter itself) and white wine for a mellow acid, as opposed to lemon juice, which is powerful and dominating. The real trick is use a hot oven and make sure to have a little liquid in the baking pan (again I use white wine and butter) instead of baking dry.
That’s really it. Nothing fancy, just good New England coastal food. Open up the menu with some shellfish, and close it down with a cobbler. Wicked good!
Ritz Crusted Haddock
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 portions
For the Crust:
1 tbsp prepared horseradish
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tbsp old bay seasoning
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp paprika
8 oz crushed ritz crackers
melted butter (about 2 sticks, or as needed)
1/2 bunch parsley, fine chop
1 tbsp dry white wine
1 cup white wine
1 stick melted butter
ground black pepper
4 large pieces haddock or king cod, patted dry
Mix everything except the butter in a bowl until well combined. Add enough butter until the mixture holds (it should feel like a meatball).
Heat your oven to 400. Have a medium sized baking dish ready.
Lightly season the fish with salt and pepper. Place the white wine and butter in the baking dish. Add the fish (the wine should come up about 1/3 on the fish) and firmly press the crust on top of the fish. Bake for about 15 – 20 minutes. The fish should be cooked through, but not flaking, and the crust should be golden brown.
Remove the fish and serve right away.
Best served with horseradish mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus and a little drizzle of warm butter and lemon. A little tartar sauce and malt vinegar wouldn’t hurt either.