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Cod's Head (and shoulders)


Cod's head, boiled or baked whole, skinned and served with a rich sauce (Moxon 1764, Glasse 1747 Francatelli 1852, Mrs.B, etc).

Original Receipt in 'English Housewifry' by Elizabeth Moxon, 1764 (Moxon 1764)

203. To dress a COD'S HEAD.
Take a cod's head, wash and clean it, take out the gills, cut it open, and make it to lie flat; (if you have no conveniency of boiling it you may do it in an oven, and it will be as well or better) put it into a copper-dish or earthen one, lie upon it a littler butter, salt, and flour, and when it is enough take off the skin.
Take a little white gravy, about a pint of oysters or cockles, a little shred lemon-peel, two or three spoonfuls of white wine, and about half a pound of butter thicken'd with flour, and put it into your boat or bason.
Another SAUCE for a COD'S HEAD.
Take a pint of good gravy, a lobster or crab, which you can get, dress and put it into your gravy with a little butter, juice of lemon, shred lemon-peel, and a few shrimps if you have them; thicken it with a little flour, and put it into your bason, set the oysters on one side of the dish and this on the other; lay round the head boiled whitings, or any fried fish; pour over the head a little melted butter. Garnish your dish with horse-radish, slices of lemon and pickles.

Walsh 1859 states that "It is a most troublesome dish to carve, because, if well boiled, it looks whole until touched, and then tumbles to pieces in the most trying way to the inexperienced carver. There is, also, a part on the head behind the eye which is much relished, and called the cheek, together with many other tit-bits about the head. Close to the back-bone is the sound, the flavour of which is patronised by most people."

Note that cod may heve been very much larger than the relatively young fish commonly caught now.

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