My sister in law came into town this week and when I looked at our dinner plan, it was fried egg sandwiches. Not exactly a dinner I want to serve to out of town family. Since hubbers is feeling homesick and the theme for the week is comfort food, I decided to try my hand at making a traditional Newfoundland Jiggs Dinner. This is a Sunday supper/special occasion kind of meal with Irish roots. The meal consists of a roast chicken/turkey or beef roast, mashed potatoes, salt beef , an assortment of vegetables that are boiled in the water the salt beef is cooked in, dressing or stuffing as I call it, peas pudding (it’s like a really thick pea soup) and gravy. It’s accompanied with mustard pickles, pickled beets and sometimes cranberry sauce. Some regions of Newfoundland have their own unique variations but this is a pretty typical Jiggs dinner where hubby is from.
This is not a meal I have any experience in making and I wasn’t really sure how to go about it. Unfortunately, cooking is not my SIL’s (sister in laws) favourite so we had to make a few calls back East and check out a blog, A Cook’s Life, to get it all figured out. I wasn’t able to replicate my mother in laws dressing but other than that I personally think I did a lovely job. I was even happier that my hubby and his sister liked it.
There isn’t a lot of prep to this dinner but at the end there is a huge hurry of activity to bring it all together. I would suggest either having a partner to help you pull it together or have a tight plan to get it on the table before it gets cold.
This meal will serve 4-6
Salt Beef and Vegetables
3-4 pieces navel salt beef
1/2 a large turnip
1/2 a green cabbage
4-6 carrots, peeled
1 cup yellow split peas
Normally you would need to soak the salt beef in water overnight, changing the water at least once. Since I got a late start my father in law suggested that I boil the beef and then change the water and let it soak. I have always found salt beef too salty (funny that, it starts with 226% of your recommended daily sodium intake) so I boiled it twice and then soaked it hoping to reduce the salt more.
After again changing the water I put the water to boil with the beef about 2.5 hours before supper time. Place the split peas in a peas pudding bag, if you don’t have one it can also be tied up in a tea towel or cheese cloth, (My husband told me his cousin has used a sock). Don’t tie the bag so tight that the peas are packed tight against each other. I made this mistake and the pudding wasn’t able to cook.
Cut the vegetables into large chunks. I cut the turnip in three, the cabbage in three and the carrots in half. About 30 minutes before dinner I added the cabbage and turnip and about 15 minutes before I added the carrots. The cabbage and carrots are served as is, the peas pudding is mashed with a bit of butter and turnips are also mashed with butter and pepper to taste, no salt:)
Roast Chicken and Dressing
Since it was just the four of us I decided to do a small chicken, that was too small to stuff. I rubbed olive oil on the skin and generously seasoned it with salt and pepper. It then went into a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes. I used my meat thermometer to make sure the chicken reached 165.
Like I said this wasn’t my MIL’s dressing but more similar to what I grew up eating. If you have Newfoundlander’s coming to dinner you may want to check with them for their recipe.
1/2 stale loaf of French bread
1 finely diced onion
1 finely chopped stalk of celery
1 tsp Savoury
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 cup melted butter
salt and pepper
Buzz the bread in a food processor until it is broken down but not crumbs. Add the onion, celery, seasoning and melted butter. It should be moist and clump together without being wet. If it doesn’t stick together use the hot water to moisten the bread mixture until it does stay together. Since I wasn’t able to stuff the chicken I then put the whole mixture into a baking dish, covered it with tin foil and placed it in the oven and the same time as the chicken.
Drippings from the roast
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup liquid from salt beef
up to a tbsp of flour
pepper to taste
In a sauté pan combine the drippings with the stock and salt beef liquid. In a small cup mix 1 tsp of flour with a bit of the liquid to create a lose slurry. Over medium heat bring the liquid to a simmer and stir in the slurry. Reduce the heat to medium low and continue to simmer. Stir regularly with a whisk to prevent lumps. The gravy should begin to thicken, if it is not thickening or not thickening enough make another slurry with an additional tsp and repeat until the consistency is gravy like. Season with pepper and serve immediately.
I used a big platter to serve everything family style. I like the way it looked and then all the different parts kept each other warm as it was getting to the table. One day I’ll get around to buying a gravy boat too and I won’t have to use my measuring cups.
My husband comes from a place that has such a strong cultural identity and more than anything this meal shows how a dinner can bring a person home or to a place that feels like it. I don’t love every part of this dinner but I will make it happily for my family and friends to share that feeling with them and to make sure that my children feel that same connection to the place their dad is from.