“If someone had told me seven years ago that I’d be back, cooking Newfoundland food and getting recognition for it, I’d tell them they were joking,” Deer Lake native Murray McDonald says. But after working in Bermuda, China, New Zealand and Mexico, that’s exactly what has happened. As the executive chef of the Fogo Island Inn, off the northeast coast of Newfoundland, his cooking is inspired by the way locals might have fished, farmed, foraged and preserved 100 years ago. And though McDonald has quickly earned a slew of followers and a spot on enRoute’s 10 best new restaurants of 2013, he’s far from hoity-toity. “I live in a saltbox house where my hair touches the beams in the ceiling and my kids throw their toys in the ocean,” says the burly guitar player. This Jiggs Dinner, something McDonald might cook when he’s entertaining at home, is a hearty Newfoundland classic. He likes to serve it with homemade mustard pickles and bottled beets.
3 lbs salt beef
1 cup dried yellow split peas
1 medium cabbage, cut into 6 wedges
6 carrots, cut in half lengthwise 1
turnip, peeled and cut into 6 wedges
6 medium potatoes, peeled
1 onion, peeled and left whole
6 parsnips, peeled (optional)
2 tbsp butter
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
Soak the salt beef in cold water for 8 to 10 hours, then drain. Tie peas in a cloth jelly bag or a few layers of cheesecloth, leaving room for the peas to expand. Place salt beef and peas in a large, deep saucepan with enough fresh water to cover them. Bring to a boil and simmer for 2 hours. Add cabbage and onion and cook for 20 minutes. Add carrots and turnip and simmer 20 minutes more. Add potatoes and parsnip and cook until just tender.
Transfer cooked peas from their bag to a bowl and mix in butter and pepper. Remove salt beef, cut in to six portions and arrange on a platter. Transfer cooked vegetables (excluding onion) to the platter. Pour cooking liquid (aka “pot liquor”) over the dinner.