September 27, 2011

Cod Provençal

Ah, the power of suggestion.

The other day I was talking to my sister on the phone and I asked her what she’d cooked recently. She told me about this cod Provençal. So easy, she said, and quick and healthy and tasty. (My sister's balancing a full-time job and 7-month old, so if she says something is quick and easy, I believe her.)

Of course I immediately wanted to try this dish. 

The base of the dish is fennel, onions, garlic and tomatoes. Fennel has a very strong, licorice flavor if you eat it raw, but it gets really subtle and tender when you cook it.

The fish cooks right in the sauce. The beauty of it is that the fish picks up the flavors of the sauce, and the sauce picks up the flavors of the liquid that the fish releases.

The only caution is to not overcook the fish. Remember that the fish will continue to cook in the sauce even after you turn off the heat.

If you want a sauce with a little more punch, add some crushed red pepper flakes, capers, or olives.

Gather the ingredients for your sauce – fennel, onion, tomatoes, garlic and thyme.

Prep your fennel. To do this, cut off the stalks (you can save the fennel fronds for garnish). Cut the fennel horizontally, down to the base. Then cut each half vertically. Hold each quarter upright, then cut diagonally down the middle to remove the tough core.

Slice the fennel and onion.

Saute the onion, fennel and salt in olive oil. Add garlic and sauté.

Add the tomatoes, wine, thyme and pepper. I used fresh tomatoes instead of canned. If you do this, you’ll need to add some extra salt.

Once the mixture is at a boil (and some of the excess liquid has evaporated), nestle the cod into the sauce.

Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, until the fish is just cooked. Transfer the fish to a plate. Reduce the sauce further if necessary and taste for salt and pepper.

Serve warm with crusty bread to soak up the sauce.

Cod Provençal

Halibut, snapper, tilapia, bluefish, monkfish, or sea bass fillets are all good substitutions for the cod. Serve this with a loaf of crusty bread to sop up the extra sauce.

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, halved and sliced thin
1 bulb fennel, halved, cored, and sliced ¼ inch thin
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained (or use fresh tomatoes)
½ cup dry white wine or vermouth
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme or ½ tsp dried
4 skinless cod fillets (8 ounces each)
2 Tbsp minced fresh parsley

1.      Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.

2.      Add the onion, fennel and ½ tsp salt. Cook until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds.

3.      Add the tomatoes, wine, thyme, and ¼ tsp pepper. Bring to a boil.

4.      Pat the cod dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Nestle the cod into the sauce and spoon some of the sauce over the fish. Cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cool until the fish flakes apart when gently prodded with a paring knife, about 10 minutes.

5.      Transfer the fish to individual plates. Stir the parsley into the sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste. (Reduce further if necessary.)

6.      Spoon the sauce over the fish and drizzle with a little olive oil.

Serves 4

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