Friday, January 4, 2008

Weeknight Dinner: Cod with Fennel and Tomato

I'll be right up front about it: I like Rachael Ray. Especially after seeing her chefography and learning more about how she made it to where she is, I give nothing but props to the woman. But it seems that the food world is divided about whether to love her or hate her for her success. Talk about schadenfreude! She's never claimed to be any more than she is: a talented home cook who found her success on television, not unlike Paula Deen and Ina Garten. (I have one friend for whom I've vowed to surprise him with one of her dinners because he finds her dishes and her show so wholly unappetizing.) Her Betty Rubble giggle can be annoying, her dishes take anyone but her longer than 30 minutes to prepare, and her "desserts" leave more than a bit to be desired. But I like perky and she's got it. Plus she obviously has an army of people working with her now to keep coming up with more and more recipes to fill her books, magazines, and TV shows. Her food style quotient has definitely increased to being well beyond the queen of burgers!

But I owe her real props for teaching me how to make delicious cod, a food with which I have a love-hate relationship: my partner loves it, and I hate it. Actually hate is too strong a word, but let's just say that when I'm doing the shopping, cod is not on the list, though I'm a huge fan of cooking and eating almost every other kind of fish and seafood. My partner, proud New Englander and Connecticut Yankee that he is, loves the stuff, even when I overcook it, which until recently was 90% of the time. I had resigned myself to admitting that "In cooking as in life, one should play to one's strengths," to paraphrase Nigella when she appeared on Oprah a couple of years back. The corollary to that is to then not play to one's weaknesses, so I was perfectly happy to be a cook who can't make a good piece of cod. Really tilapia, flounder, and halibut were perfectly interchangeable in the category of white fish as far as I was concerned, tilapia and halibut being my favorites.

Of course quality of ingredients is the first step to cooking success so we spent a bit of coin for cod at Whole Paycheck one evening, believing that it wasn't me but the fish from the Giant grocery store upending our fish dinners. So not wanting to make a dinner that was both mediocre and expensive, I sought new recipes and have found three by Ms. Ray that finally produced more than satisfactory--I even daresay delicious --results. Maybe it's because she grew up on Cape Cod in her early years, but the woman can cook her fish! The first recipe was oven roasted cod crusted with herbs, which produced the crisp exterior and moist fish that I'd been wanting for years. The second was last night's dinner, cod poached in the oven with fennel and tomato. And Rachael's third notable dish is a bit fancy but also delicous: cod with burst grape tomatoes, parsley-mint pesto broth and roast fingerling potato crisps. Each of these recipes was dee-lish, producing tender and flaky cod that wasn't rubbery in the least.

So here is my take on Ms. Ray's oven poached cod, which she calls by a slightly different name (I didn't have any dill). I'm pleased to present this recipe because after serving it to my partner in November, I decided what I really needed to do was to start blogging about some of the recipes I like to make, as I mentioned in my first ever Ganbaru blog. Incidentally, I'm very particular about time and temperature when cooking cod. I make sure that my oven is hot enough using my oven thermometer and I use a timer to follow the cooking time to the second to reduce the risk of over cooking.

Cod with Fennel, Dill and Tomato, by Rachael Ray

4 (8-ounce) portions cod fish
2 wedges lemon
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan
1 bulb fennel, quartered, core cut away, thinly sliced
1 small to medium yellow skinned onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken broth
1 (15- ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
Black pepper
A few large sprigs, in tact, plus 2 tablespoons chopped dill [I substituted chopped fresh marjoram with tasty results; thyme would probably be another good subsitute]

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Rinse fish and squeeze lemon juice over it. Season the fish with a little salt and reserve.

Heat a large oven proof pan over medium heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil, fennel and onion and season with salt. Saute fennel and onions 7 to 8 minutes then add white wine and reduce a minute, then add broth. Add tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Set fish into pan and spoon juices over the cod. Add a few sprigs dill [or another fresh herb of choice] to the broth and set the pan into the hot oven to cook. Cook 12 minutes, until fish is opaque. To serve, arrange cod on plate, top with vegetables and chopped fresh herbs for garnish.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please let me know what you're thinking!