12 February, 2010

Fishy Delights 29: Officer brand Smoked Cod Liver in its Own Oil

Most Americans these days have little experience with cod livers or cod liver oil.  The oil was once commonly used as a tonic and preventive medicine, especially in the winter months (it's high in Vitamins A and D) and in my great-grandmother's day was administered every morning by the spoonful to unappreciative children. (I guess you could say that it's still commonly used that way - modern people just take their fish oil in little capsules these days, bypassing the tastebuds.)

Because of this former ubiquity, cod liver oil has it's own special place in urban legend.  Your grandparents might even recount horror stories about having been forced to take it straight up from a spoon as a child.  So the actual flavor of cod liver - and the cod liver oil it's packed in - is likely to come as a huge surprise.  Far from being overwhelmingly "fishy" or rancid-tasting, the flavor is relatively mild and delicate - certainly no worse than a good canned salmon and much less fishy than a can of sardines.

Officer Smoked Cod Liver is a product of Denmark, packed in a 4.26-ounce can.  Inside the can there is a generous portion of cod liver in very pale amber oil.  The pieces of liver inside are soft but firm, creamy and smooth and buttery.  The liver is meltingly tender - almost ethereal in texture - with a gentle, pleasant fish flavor.  More than anything, it reminded me of caviar-flavored butter.

I enjoyed the liver spread on thinly sliced and toasted pumpernickel bread for breakfast, closely attended by my fish-loving dog Zim.  I gave him a tiny bit of the liver, thereby ensuring his continuing devotion, but I have to be careful about feeding him anything this fatty - the last time I tried cod liver in its own oil, I gave a somewhat larger piece to the dog and it kind of seeped out unexpectedly if you know what I mean, and I think you do because let's face it, we're all adults here.

So now that I've given you that charming mental image, I will note that one of the best places to find canned cod liver is in an ethnic Russian market; cod liver salad is a popular Russian treat.  There are many ways to make it, but one of the simplest is as follows:

Cod Liver Salad

1 can of cod liver in its own oil, drained - reserve the oil
1 small shallot, finely minced
2 or 3 hard-boiled eggs, grated
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the cod liver, shallot, and eggs in a bowl and thoroughly blend with a fork. If the mixture seems too dry, drizzle in some of the reserved oil in as you mix until the salad is the consistency you desire.  This is very good as a filling for small tomatoes, or simply spread on bread or crackers.
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3 comments:

tree ocean said...

You know, I used to have a penchant for fried chicken livers-breaded in corn meal and served with bacon and fried onions and a pan gravy...and have even enjoyed liverwurst sandwiches, but whether it is the early hour at the time of reading, or recalling the mental image of the time I let a dog lick a roast goose pan...*shudders* .... fish liver...uck! LOL

Stella said...

Interesting and poor puppy!
I used to work at a Jewish deli, and there were always cod liver tins like that on the canned products shelves. I like cod liver, but I like liver-it has never bothered me. I'm a little weary of liver from animals off of conventional farms nowadays though. That being said, cod liver sounds better than ever!
Maybe I'll stop by Fatima's market on the way to Target and pick up a 'Fishy Delight'.

Sustainable Sachi said...

This is a great recipe. I found some canned cod liver in a local Russian store and it was really great! I've been looking for a way to eat cod liver (oil) as food rather than just forcing it down with an OJ chaser. I follow the nutritional recommendations of Weston A. Price Foundation and they prescribe a daily dose as a Vitamin A supplement. I'd like to link this recipe to my blog Sustainable Sachi, if you don't mind.