Good cod

Cynthia Stone
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Some friends are home from away for a couple of weeks and they’ve been lucky enough to snag an invite aboard a boat that is, apparently, a cod magnet.

With the price of a little kitchen duty, I’ve already enjoyed tongues and britches and collars, and, courtesy of my friends, there’s fresh cod in my freezer. It won’t bide there long, of course, because I always have a lineup of recipes waiting to be tried.

Today, I gladly share a couple of ideas for your cod — caught or bought — and I hope you enjoy them as much as I will.

Tempura-battered cod with Marie Rose sauce

It takes a lot to make me part with a big bottle of vegetable oil to deep fry, but fresh cod is a lot. This version is crispier and tastier than what you can buy in most restaurants. The sauce is, as far as I know, an old English recipe … couldn’t be simpler, but I far prefer it to bottled tartar. The addition of hot sauce is not traditional, but the zing it adds is terrific.

1 cup flour

2 tbsp. cornstarch

3/4 tsp. salt

1/2 cup each cold beer and soda water

1 egg yolk

2 egg whites

2 lbs. fresh cod cut into 6 to 8 pieces

Marie Rose Sauce:

3 tbsp. mayonnaise

2 tbsp. ketchup

1 tsp. each lemon juice and Dijon or hot mustard

1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1/4 to 1/2 tsp. hot sauce (optional and to taste)

Whisk together flour, cornstarch and salt. Whisk together beer, soda water and egg yolk and add all at once to the flour mixture. Stir just until incorporated — don’t overmix. Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into batter. Dry fish thoroughly and dip into batter. Allow the excess to drip off, then slowly lower into about 4 inches of hot vegetable oil at 400 F. You don’t want the temperature to drop too low, so cook only 2 or 3 pieces at a time. Fry until golden brown on one side, then flip and continue to fry until golden on the other. Drain on paper towels and serve at once. For the sauce, whisk everything together and refrigerate until ready to use.

Cod with scallops and shrimp in white wine sauce

This dish is luxurious but at the same time light and perfect for a summer supper, especially when you’re starting with superbly fresh cod.

Don’t scrimp on the wine here — select one that you’d take to a special dinner party for the best result. Use a non-stick pan if you prefer, but a regular frying pan will give you some nice brown bits on the bottom.

2 tbsp. flour

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

4 portions fresh cod fillet, 5 to 6 oz. each

2 tbsp. good quality olive oil

1/2 lb. scallops, as large as you can find

1/2 lb. fresh or thawed frozen shelled shrimp — avoid the pre-cooked ones if you can

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley

Whisk together flour, salt and pepper. Toss cod pieces and scallops in flour and drop the cod in hot olive oil in a large frying pan or Dutch oven. Brown on both sides but don’t cook completely through. Remove cod from pan and set aside. Add scallops and fry quickly just until they are starting to colour. Add shrimp and garlic and cook until shrimp are starting to turn pink. Add white wine to pan. Return cod, cover and simmer together for a minute or two, just until fish is cooked through. Serve in soup bowls — dividing the fish up fairly, of course — with crusty toast for dipping.

Saffron cod

So Mediterranean, so tasty, and so easy, this dish is what you want to serve someone special tonight.

There’s a piquant note that works well with any side vegetables you’d like to steam, but it’s delicate enough so as not to overpower the fresh taste of the fish.

Don’t be tempted to buy saffron powder if you come across it. Find the threads and you’ll be happy with digging a little deeper in your wallet.

1 cup good quality dry white wine

1 good pinch saffron threads

1 small onion, quartered

1 tbsp. each champagne or sherry vinegar and Dijon mustard

2 tsp. honey

1 lemon, zest and juice

1/4 cup olive oil

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

2 lbs. fresh cod, steamed or fried until cooked

Combine wine, saffron, onion and vinegar in a small pot and bring to a boil. Simmer uncovered until reduced by about half. Remove onion, then whisk in honey, lemon zest and juice, and olive oil. A food processor will give you quicker results but isn’t essential.

Add salt and pepper and serve immediately with cooked cod.

Cod with ginger cilantro sauce

Ginger is a strong flavour but it is muted by the other flavours in this Asian style sauce.

If you can’t find lemongrass, then use only the zest of 1 lemon — don’t add any more juice or it will be too acidic. It won’t be quite the same, but pretty good.

If you have never prepared lemongrass, you can eat the more delicate inside “layers” of the tender bottoms of the stalks if they are finely chopped, but it is easier still to remove the tough part, give the softer ends a few good whacks with the blunt edge of a big knife, and drop it right into the pot.

1 stalk celery, minced

2 shallots, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 cup dry white wine

2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 tbsp. soy sauce

1 thumb-size piece fresh ginger, peeled and smacked with a knife but left whole

1 stalk lemongrass (bottom 6 inches only — the softer part)

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

1/2 tsp. toasted sesame oil

2 lbs. fresh cod, steamed or fried until cooked

Fry celery, shallots and garlic in oil until soft.

Stir in wine, lemon juice and soy sauce. Add ginger and lemongrass (or lemon zest if using) and simmer together 10 minutes.

Remove and discard ginger and lemongrass.

Add cilantro, parsley and sesame oil and immediately pour over freshly cooked cod.

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

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