Our kind of recreation

Cynthia Stone
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Our idea of a recreational vehicle is any boat that can take a cod.

Pan-fried cod.

Open season is just hours away now, and how many of you are already salivating for that first fantastically fresh morsel? I hope these recipes measure up to your expectations.

Allow about 6 oz. of cod per serving for each of these dishes, but be as generous as the bounty allows because we’re all anxious now.

Barbecued Cod with Bacon-Tomato Sauce

First out of the gate is that perfect dish that showcases the cod’s delicate sweetness. This sauce is lightly flavoured and adds to rather than masks the fish. If you’re not in the mood to grill, then pan-fry the fillets by all means — they will be every bit as delicious.

2 slices bacon, diced

1/2 small onion, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 tsp. each ground cumin and smoked paprika

2 large ripe tomatoes, diced, or 1 14-oz. can

1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth or water

1/2 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper, divided

2 tbsp. butter

4 generous cod fillets, skin on or off as you prefer

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

Fry bacon until crisp in a non-stick pan. Remove and set aside to drain on a paper towel. As soon as it is cool enough to handle, break it up into smallish crumbles.

Add onion to bacon fat in pan and cook just until wilted, a few minutes. Add garlic and fry for about a minute. Stir in cumin and paprika and cook, stirring, until spices are dark and moist and mixture is fragrant. Add tomatoes, broth and half the salt and pepper and simmer over low heat until tomatoes have broken down and mixture is saucy and slightly thickened.

To this point you can make the sauce up to two days in advance and refrigerate. If you do that, bring it back up to heat in a small pot and carry on.

Add the butter and remove from heat; stir until melted. Taste and add a little more salt and pepper if needed. Stir in cooked crumbled bacon or reserve it to scatter on top of each serving.

Sprinkle remaining salt and pepper on both sides of each fillet and drizzle on the vegetable oil. Grill — or pan fry if you prefer — until just cooked through. Serve with sauce on top or on the side. This is especially delicious with brown rice and a crisp salad.

Pan-Fried Cod with Herbed Brown Butter

Golden butter sauce with flecks of freshness showcase the beautiful fish in this easy dish. You can make the sauce ahead and refrigerate it, although consider leaving out the parsley until the last minute when you reheat it.

1 tbsp. olive oil

1/2 tsp. salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 serving-sized cod fillets

1/4 cup unsalted butter, no other

2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tbsp. chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley

1 tbsp. chopped tarragon leaves

Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan. Sprinkle salt and pepper evenly on all sides of the cod fillets and fry in the oil until just cooked through and slightly golden brown. Remove from pan and hold in a warm oven while you make the sauce.

Add butter to pan and turn up the heat. Swirl until the bubbling stops as the water in the butter boils off.

As soon as the colour turns to a light brown — don’t let it burn — add the lemon juice to stop the cooking. Remove from heat and stir in parsley and tarragon. Pour over cod and serve with mashed potatoes or crispy garlic toast.

Cod with Lentils and Brussels Sprouts

Here’s an all-in-one dish that would be perfect on a warm summer evening shared with friends.

1 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and washed

2 tbsp. each vegetable oil and butter or margarine, divided

1 stalk celery, finely chopped

1 small onion, minced

1 carrot, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper, divided

1 cup green lentils, rinsed and drained

1 sprig fresh thyme

1/2 cup chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley

4 cod fillets, skin removed

1/4 cup vodka

Thinly slice the sprouts as you would cabbage when you’re making chunky cole slaw. Fry in half the oil and butter in a large frying pan for a minute or two. Add celery, onion and carrot and cook, stirring, until tender. Add garlic and half the salt and pepper and cook another minute, until fragrant.

Boil lentils until tender, about 20 minutes, with the thyme sprig in the pot. You can use canned if you prefer, but be sure to rinse and drain them thoroughly — you won’t get the flavour of the thyme, but they are a time saver. Drain and stir into the Brussels sprouts mixture in the frying pan along with parsley; heat through. Keep warm while you cook the fish.

Add remaining oil and butter to pan. Season cod with remaining salt and pepper and fry in oil and butter mixture until golden on each side and cooked through. Mound the lentils and Brussels sprout mixture on a serving platter and top with cod fillets.

Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s, NL, A1E 4N1.

Organizations: The Telegram

Geographic location: Brussels

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