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~ Luxurious: Cod Bathed in EVOO w/Fresh Tomatoes ~

IMG_8789As a kid, I adored frozen fish sticks and canned stewed tomatoes -- I still do.  That said, as a grownup, I much prefer the taste of a sweet, fresh, white fish fillet paired with a few acidic, fresh tomatoes.  Sometimes I bake them together in parchment with thyme and some white wine, and sometimes I broil them drizzled with melted butter and a bit of lemon and pepper. Tonight I'm using a method similar to shallow poaching, except:  extra-virgin olive oil is used in place of the traditional liquid.  Today's recipe is simple enough to serve for a weeknight meal at the kitchen island, and, elegant enough to serve for a fancy-schmancy dinner in the dining room.

To prepare this simple meal properly, understand the method: 

The term "poach" is from the French verb "pocher" meaning to cook gently in water or seasoned liquid.  The liquid, called "court bouillon" or "short broth", is classically a mixture of water, an acid (such as lemon juice, wine, and/or vinegar or wine vinegar), aromatics (such as onion, celery and/or carrot), an herb or two (such as parsley, thyme and/or bay leaf), salt and peppercorns. That said, poaching fish is a worldwide sport and the liquid should be seasoned accordingly. For example: When I'm poaching fish for Asian fare, I use ginger, lemongrass and/or lime leaves, cilantro, soy sauce and/or fish sauce (in place of salt) and a cayenne chile pepper.

Shallow poaching involves placing the food to be poached, presentation side up, atop or in the center of the aromatics, herbs and spices in a shallow cooking vessel.  Cold or room temperature court bouillon is added until the food is partially-submerged in liquid.  The pan gets covered and the food gets cooked gently at a low temperature (barely simmering/shivering), which preserves both the flavor and the structural integrity of the food.  Deep poaching is almost identical, except the food is placed in a deep vessel and fully-submerged in liquid.  In both cases, depending upon the recipe, the liquid might require skimming at the start of or throughout the cooking process.

IMG_8797I am demonstrating how to shallow poach 1, 12-ounce cod loin fillet today.  I'm cooking it in an 8" nonstick skillet, and, it will yield 2, 6-ounce servings.  Placed atop a bed of steamed white rice or saffron rice, it's quite a filling meal.  To make 4, 6 or 8 servings at one time (2, 3 or 4 fillets respectively), increase the skillet size accordingly -- do not overcrowd the skillet under any circumstances:  4 servings/2 fillets = 10" skillet; 6 servings/3 fillets = 12" skillet; 8 servings/4 fillets = 14" skillet.  Common sense says to increase the amount of oil accordingly too, adding enough oil to the skillet to total a 1/8" puddle of oil in the bottom of the empty skillet -- no more, no less.   

IMG_8722For two servings/1 cod fillet:

1  12-ounce fresh, wild-caught, Icelandic cod loin fillet, cut in half to form 2, 6-ounce portions*

1/4  cup extra-virgin olive oil

6-8  small Campari tomatoes, cut into large chunks or wedges

1  teaspoon dried Mediterranean oregano

1/4-1/2  teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend

* Note:  For best results remove the fish from the refrigerator 45-60 minutes prior to poaching. Why?  Poaching cold fish lowers the temperature of the oil, which affects the cooking time.

IMG_8728 IMG_8732~ Step 1.  Slice the fish fillet into two pieces. Season the tops with sea salt and peppercorn blend and set aside.  Prep the tomatoes as directed and set aside.  Heat the oil in an 8" skillet over medium-low heat for 1 1/2-2 minutes.

IMG_8737 IMG_8739 IMG_8749~ Step 2.  Gently place the seasoned fish into skillet. If there is a slight sizzle that it normal.  If you hear a big sizzle, or the oil sputters up, it's too hot.  Remove the fish and lower the heat.  Place the lid on the skillet and gently cook the fish for six minutes.  I like to use a pan with a glass lid when shallow poaching, because, it allows me to keep an eye on the process and adjust the temperature (up or down) if necessary. Remove the lid from the skillet.  Using a large spoon in one hand, while tilting the pan with the other hand, bathe the tops of the fish with spoonfuls of olive oil, for 45-60 nonstop seconds.

IMG_8754 IMG_8757~ Step 3.  Add the tomatoes to the skillet, placing them around, not on, the fish.  Sprinkle the oregano, optional red pepper flakes and a bit of salt over the tomatoes, doing your best to season the tomatoes, not the fish.  Return the lid to the skillet and continue to cook gently for 1-1 1/2 minutes, just until the tomatoes begin to soften.

IMG_8762 IMG_8764~ Step 4.  Using a spatula, carefully remove fish from skillet and place fillets on each of two serving plates (atop some cooked rice is nice).  Increase the heat under the tomatoes to a rapid simmer and cook 30-45 seconds, until the oil emulsifies with the tomato juices enough to form a nice chunky sauce (without turning the tomatoes to mush).

Spoon perfectly-cooked tomatoes over perfectly-poached fish...

IMG_8819... & enjoy the silkiest, luxurious T.G.I.Fish dinner imaginable:

IMG_8775Luxurious:  Cod Bathed in EVOO w/Fresh Tomatoes:  Recipe yields instructions to poach 1, 2, 3 or 4, 12-ounce fillets/2, 4, 6, or 8, 6-ounce servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 8", 10", 12" or 14" nonstick skillet w/lid (preferably glass); large spoon; slotted spatula

IMG_8271Cook's Note:  My method for ~ Poaching Bone-In Skin-On Real Chicken Breasts ~, which demonstrates the traditional method for shallow poaching in a traditional liquid, can be found in Categories 1, 2, 3, 15, 19 or 20.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)


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