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Poached Cod in Lemon Fume Broth

Poached Cod in Lemon Fume Broth
  

I've been going through an obsession with poached fish lately. This was one of the first "serious" cooking techniques I learned, when I was young and poor in New York City. A Julia Child recipe for poached fillet of flounder, with a velouté sauce made from the reduced poaching liquid, became my routine dinner-date-at-home recipe. Once mastered it was easy, and produced enough of a flurry in the kitchen to let my guest know she was getting something that took a little work. Add a candle, soft music and a bottle of wine and it made my little railroad flat in the East Village into a pretty romantic place...

Fast forward a good many years to Portland, where we are living in an apartment with no grill while we wait for renovations to be done on our house. I have access to fabulously fresh fish at the dockside markets and we eat several times a week at the excellent restaurants we have here.

This current situation has led me to more and more prepare dishes like this poached cod in lemon fumé broth, which, to be honest, are inspired by dishes I've been served on my nights out. Ok, to be different I put my rice (molded into a hockey puck shape with a ramekin) next to the fish, whereas some would have put the fish on top of a less architectural mound of rice.

The main difference between this sauce and the velouté is the omission of flour and milk (but not the butter!), so this dish has a lighter feel than my old standby, in which the delicate sides of flounder were draped with creamy white sauce and decorated with a scattering of minced herbs. Here the fish is out front, with the sauce in a more supporting role, and it seems to me that the flavor of the broth is more pronounced and accessible than when it's used as a base for velouté, and this in spite of the lemony slant of this particular version. In any case, this is an easy, flavorful way to prepare any fresh fish, especially if it's delicate and less likely to survive more stressful methods like sauté or grill. I usually pair with a small nest of cooked greens, a good fresh bread and crisp pinot grigio.

Poached Cod in Lemon Fumé Broth

1 cod fillet
1 cup vegetable or mushroom broth
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 lemon
2 cloves minced garlic
1 T dried dill weed
1 T dried onion (or 2-4 scallions, minced, or 1/4 C leek leaves, minced)
3-4 sprigs cilantro, chopped
2 T butter
salt, hot sauce to taste

Cut the fish into serving pieces (1 per diner).

Combine the broth, wine, garlic, dill weed, onion, and cilantro in a skillet (sufficient to eventually accommodate comfortably all the fish in one layer) over medium heat. Squeeze the lemon into the pan and then cut it into several slices and place in the pan.  Simmer the mixture for about 20 minutes. Add the fish and modulate the heat so the broth barely bubbles. Poach the fish for a total of about 4 minutes per inch of thickness, turning carefully when half cooked. (Reduce the time proportionately for the thinner pieces from the tail of the fish. If the thinner pieces are completely submerged there is no need to turn them.)

Remove the fish to a warmed plate. Cover with foil and set aside while you finish the sauce.

Strain the solids from the broth in the pan and return the liquid to the pan. Raise the heat to high and reduce quickly by half. Stir in the butter and season carefully with salt and hot sauce.

To serve, place the pieces of fish on a warm flat serving dish and spoon the sauce over them.

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Comments

This sounds good, I like the broth a lot. I better try it but with another type of fish, it would be stupid to try to get good fresh cod here in Italy! And then we have a lot of interesting fish nel mare nostrum!

I remember that flounder. Did you ever try Julia's poached chicken with tarragon sauce. Very nice. We like poaching...

Beautiful cod... what a coincidence, I just made poached cod in a tomato-broth.

I will definitely try your recipe next time - very elegant!

Your cod dish looks delicious. I love a good poached fish.

This looks delicious.
IN the UK we are being told to avoid eating Cod because the stocks in the sea are so low.
Which is a great shame...

Where did you go? We miss your posts!!! Come back to us!

This does look delicious. More posts, please.

Paz

Ah, poached cod ... Having experienced the decline of cod in the Baltic Sea, I rarely eat cod these days. When I was little I used to fret when cod was served for dinner -- it was so common and dull. Silly me. Would love a thick piece of that really flaky and fresh cod now.

I really hope you come back soon... I miss your posts!

I miss being able to pick up fresh seafood off the wharfs in Maine. I was born and raised and your post made me miss it even more. I now live in the Arizona desert, a far cry from Maine. How sad. I'll be looking forward to stopping by often to read your posts.
Cheers,
Lydia Hamre

Hi Stephen! Got pointed here by Alanna at A Veggie Venture -- just started my own blog about living at eating here in Portland.

This recipe sounds incredible, and I'm always looking for new things to do with cod. I never think about poaching for some reason. Thank you!

I made this dish with haddock substituted for the cod and it was excellent. I was surprised at how bold the lemon flavor remained after the reduction considering that the amount of lemon used in the recipe is modest. Great dish. Thanks for posting.

This dish has become a regular in our menu planning. Very popular. I am amazed at how good it tastes, yet how easy it is to prepare. The modification that I made last night was to use a flat soup bowl to plate the dish. I molded rice, propped the filet against the rice, surrounded the rice with a moat of the fume, dotted the fume with sriricha hot sauce and layered shallot and olive oil sauteed spinach to the top of the rice to add some color and height to the dish. Looked great and tasted even better.

Greg

This looks so delicious. I am looking forward more posts from you!

Stephen,
Are you working on your next delicious posting? I certainly miss seeing what you've been up to in the kitchen...it seems you used to update at least monthly. Hope all is well with you and yours.

How's the re-modeling coming?

Geez, I do miss Portland--esp the Old Port area.

Looking forward to your newest creation.
Stephanie

Hey, Thanks for another great read & recipe. I will def try a version of your fume...so simple, yet delightful. I really enjoy your work, and it is inspiring me in both my cooking and the building of my own (albeit tiny) foodie web-site. Thank-you again.

C'est tout simplement merveilleux...un coucou de France.

Great dish - cooked it before, but tonight the bitterness of the lemon skin was extremely prevalent. To be safe the next time I would squeeze the lemon juice and do some zesting, but skip adding the entire half lemon. Keep up the great work. Always looking for new posts.

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