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
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.