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Cod Roasted with Pancetta, Leeks, Mushrooms and Tomatoes

Cod Roasted with Pancetta, Leeks, Mushrooms and Tomatoes

Once again I found myself in Harbor Fish Market on the Portland docks. With the Fourth of July coming up, the traditional New England holiday meal is salmon and fresh peas, and since these are two favorites at our table we've frequently gone right along with the crowd when preparing Independence Day feasts. And not only did Harbor have four varieties of salmon -- they had a bin full of fresh peas right in the middle of the floor!

However, the salmon selections were two varieties of farm-raised Alantic salmon and two types of wild-caught Pacific salmon (chinook and king), and it only took me a minute to reject them all. The Atlantic farm-raised, in my experience, has a bland taste -- and then there's the questionable environmental impact issues associated with this product. And though the Pacific salmon looked good and came from one of the more sustainable fisheries going, the absurdity of buying fish that had been shipped over 3000 miles while I could actually hear the Atlantic lapping on the pilings under my feet stopped me cold.

Then I saw the cod. The fish of empire -- as we know from reading Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World by Mark Kurlansky -- and also a very good eating fish. (Okay, I know there are problems with the cod fishery...but I'm not ready to deal with that yet.) Beautiful, thick, wild-caught fillets, cut from a large fish and gleaming up at me from the case. And no more painful, dollar-wise, than the farmed salmon.

With whitefish fillets I like to keep things simple, since the flavor is so easily hidden or overwhelmed by sauces or additions, so these beauties were just wrapped in thin sheets of pancetta and roasted on a bed of leeks, shitake mushrooms, garlic and oregano. The vegetables were sautéed for a few minutes before the roasting, and then simmered in wine. I tossed in some tomato wedges just before the fish went in the oven and the resulting broth was very flavorful and light.

I served this beautiful dish with a salad of fresh greens from my farm share and a crusty French peasant bread from the amazing and authentic Standard Bakery (no website -- it's at 31 Wharf St, and makes the best bread in Portland), which as luck would have it is right across the street from Harbor Fish. Ah, Maine: the way life should be!

Cod Roasted with Pancetta, Leeks, Mushrooms and Tomatoes

Serves 4.

24 oz fresh cod fillet (ideally one piece)
6" piece of leek, white/light green part only
2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
2 tsp lemon juice
2" thick chunk of pancetta (see slicing instructions below)
4 oz shitake mushrooms
2 T oregano, minced
3/4 C dry white wine
olive oil
2 T butter
1 ripe tomato, cut in 8 wedges
salt, hot sauce to taste

Clean the leek and remove any tough outer layers. Cut in half lengthwise and then cut into 1/8" wide threads. Remove and discard the stems from the mushrooms and slice the caps in thin pieces. Heat  some olive oil in a large heavy skillet and add the leek threads, garlic, oregano, lemon juice and mushrooms. Simmer for about five minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add the wine and butter and raise the heat to reduce the liquid by about half over the next five minutes. Remove from heat.

Cut the fillet in half crosswise, season lightly with salt and lay one half on top of the other, matching the thick center ends with the thinner head and tail ends. If necessary, turn the thinner ends back on themselves so the stack is more or less uniform thickness from one end to the other.

With a long very sharp slicer, slice four paper-thin ribbons from the pancetta, each about 6 - 8" long by 2" wide. This is done by carefully shaving the ribbon from the chunk while rotating the pancetta in your hand. If you've seen a sushi chef cut a long wide sheet of daikon from the whole radish it's a similar procedure.

Wrap the pancetta around the fish stack. Push the vegetables to the center of the pan to form a bed on which you will place the fish. Toss the tomato wedges in olive oil, salt them lightly and place them in the pan on either side of the fish.  Roast in a preheated 425º oven about 25 minutes.

Slice the fish stack crosswise into four pieces, cutting between the pancetta ribbons, and with a spatula lift the fish and the vegetables beneath it onto warmed plates. Add two tomato wedges to each plate and, if you like, garnish the fish with a mushroom slice or a few leek threads. Spoon some of the sauce from the pan over the fish before serving.


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Loved the recipe and photo, but loved even more your interview over at Basic Juice (a blog I had never visited until today)

Congratulations on being a "first victim"


Jeez that sounds good!

I am currently doing a gcse in food technology and have been instucted to make a starter fit to sell in a rastraunt. Could a button or chesnut mushroom be used in this recipe instead of the shitaki? And would it be possible for you to send me a list of ingredients for a smaller size portion? It would be much apreciated. Regards Hollie

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