A little spring cleaning in my freezer uncovered a couple of pieces of cod that I should have dealt with during the winter. It was wrapped well — no need to contemplate throwing it away, and fish is on my menu at least once a week — so I just had to pick out the right recipes.
One thing I know I’m going to do is bypass the lineups at the local fish-and-chips joints on Friday because there will be something much better — and better for me — at my house.
Gingered Fish Soup
Some chowders have as much fat and calories as a plate full of greasy fried food, but a brothy, flavourful soup is satisfying and makes an easy first course or light meal. I always have canned baby clams in the cupboard because they are a great ingredient in many soups and stews, and the broth is worth its weight in gold. Any white fish would work in this recipe, but it is perfect to use that chunk of cod that may have spent a little too long in your freezer. As an added bonus, it takes just a few minutes to get on the table. Consider adding a big bunch of fresh baby spinach with the cod. This amount serves 4.
1 thumb-sized piece fresh gingerroot
3 cups each chicken broth and water
1 can baby clams
1 lb. frozen and thawed or fresh cod, cut into small chunks (or any white fish)
1 tsp. packed brown sugar
1 tsp. soy sauce, or to taste
1/2 tsp. hot red chili paste (or hot sauce)
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 big squeeze fresh lemon juice
big handful fresh cilantro
Peel ginger and cut in half lengthwise. Give it a good whack with the heel of your hand or a big knife and add to the chicken broth and water in a heavy pot. Add liquid from canned clams and bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer together a few minutes. Discard the ginger. Add cod, sugar, soy sauce and chili paste. Cover and simmer 10 minutes — a little longer if fish wasn’t thawed, of course, but don’t overcook it. Stir in reserved clams, green onions, sesame oil, lemon juice and cilantro, bring back up to heat and serve at once.
Any dish topped with mashed potatoes is a good thing; this pie is a great thing. Frozen fillets are perfect — no need to spend extra on fresh. Any white fish will work fine and the result will serve 4 to 6 as a main course.
6 medium white potatoes, peeled
4 hardboiled eggs, shelled and quartered or thickly sliced
1/2 cup milk (skim is fine)
2 tbsp. butter or margarine
1/4 tsp. nutmeg (freshly grated if possible)
1-1/2 lbs. frozen and thawed cod or other white fish, cut into small chunks
1 cup cold water
1/2 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small onion, minced
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup milk (approx. — see below for instructions here)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (Italian flat-leaf if possible)
Boil potatoes in lightly salted water until cooked through —a bout 30 minutes. Wash the eggs and add them to the potatoes for the last 8 minutes. Remove eggs and set aside to cool slightly. Mash potatoes with milk and butter; stir in nutmeg and set aside. Cover fish with cold water, add salt and pepper, and microwave on high, covered, until barely cooked through — 5 minutes or so, depending on your microwave’s power and how frozen the fish was when you started. Remove fish and pour poaching liquid into a measuring cup — you will need it for the white sauce. For the sauce, fry onion in butter until soft but not brown. Whisk in flour and cook together for a minute or two. Add milk to fish poaching water in measuring cup to make 2 cups in all. Whisk into onion mixture, cooking and stirring until smooth and thick. Stir in parsley. Place fish in a greased casserole dish. Pour sauce evenly over top and nestle in the egg pieces. Top with mashed potatoes. Place in a 400 F oven about 30 minutes or until puffed and starting to brown.
As long as you don’t overpower the fish with heat, cod is a natural match to curry. This is perfect when you just don’t feel like fish and potatoes. If I have tamarind paste on hand — and I usually do because you can find it now in a couple of stores with specialty food sections — I add 1 tbsp. to the sauce for super deliciousness, but either way this is a great supper for 4.
1-1/2 to 2 lbs. frozen and thawed cod or other white fish
2 tsp. turmeric (divided)
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 thumb-sized piece fresh ginger, grated
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 hot chili, minced (seeded if you prefer less heat)
1/2 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper (or to taste)
1/2 to 1 tsp. hot curry powder
1/4 tsp. each ground cumin and coriander
1 can coconut milk — light is fine
1 cup chicken broth
Sprinkle about half the turmeric all over fish and set aside. Add remaining turmeric to vegetable oil in a hot frying pan and add onion; cook until soft but not brown.
Add ginger and tomato paste and cook another 2 minutes. Add chili, salt, pepper, curry powder, cumin and coriander and cook another minute. Add coconut milk and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer together 10 minutes.
Add fish and simmer 10 minutes longer, just until fish is cooked through. Serve with rice — jasmine or basmati would be especially good.
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.