Thursday, April 29, 2010

Olive Oil Poached Cod & Roasted Tomatoes

I am in NYC this week where we are visiting family, hosted a belated Passover Seder and just enjoying the city and all it has to offer. I grew up here and I remember not fully understanding what is was like not to live in Manhattan. People would respond in awe when I told them where I lived, some with jealousy and some with simple wonder that I had not been murdered at a tender age. I was over 30 years old, siting in traffic in Burlington when I realized I was much safer growing up in New York City. The most dangerous thing we all do, often more then once a day, is ride in a car. Until I moved away from New York I rarely traveled in a car.

Now that I have moved away I get some of the awe, confusion and feeling of being overwhelmed by all there is to do, all the people and everything going on at once. As a teenager the closest I came to understanding came when I first visited Boston. I looked at the short buildings and wondered, "They call this a city? How can they call this city?"

I am grateful that my children can grow up riding the NYC subway, walking the streets, exploring the museums and interesting neighborhoods. They can do all these things as regular visitors who feel like they have some ownership and attachment to the city. However as I stood with them on the subway platform with their fingers stuffed tightly in their ears I was reminded that they are Vermonters in their hearts (even if it will take "true" Vermonters another 6 generations to stop referring to them as anything but flatlanders). In response I proved I still had some of my New Yorker's street cred by riding the subway without holding on, although I have to admit, as the game of chicken goes I lost, I kept my hand inches from a support pole the whole time, curved around it without actually touching it.

For most of the years that we have visited NYC as non residents we have allowed my father to treat us to take out food very night. However the week long festival of take out food began to make both Lewis and I feel wretched. The more our diet at home evolved to contain more vegetables and less but higher quality meat the worse it became. So on our last visit I cooked most of our meals in my father's understocked galley kitchen on his anemic stove. It was so much better in so many ways, we felt healthier, we maintained more of our usual schedule and the boys ended up going to bed closer to normal time. So here I am in April cooking again, still on an anemic stove in an understocked kitchen. Every time I come I add to the mental list of items that I need to bring when we visit to make cooking here easier.

Wednesday Lewis was away at dinner time and I had to prepare dinner for my father and two over tired boys. I am always amazed when my boys are exhausted and begin bugging each other, poking, pushing, grabbing toys etc. Normally they are best friends, people frequently comment on it. Not however when they are hungry, tired, or bored. So with both of them exhausted I decided to prepare olive oil poached cod with roasted tomatoes. Nothing like a fiddly sensitive recipe when there are tired boys pummeling each other.

The results where really wonderful though. The fish was luxurious with a moist and tender texture. The sauce is also very flavorful with the sweetness of the balsamic and the richness from the olive oil and a concentrated tomato flavor. If you don't want to hover over the poaching fish, the sauce would still be excellent with a pan seared and gently cooked fillet. Alternatively you can use the olive oil poaching method for salmon, swordfish or another firm fish.

The recipe calls for fresh thyme sprigs but I subbed the fennel fronds I had on hand. I think the thyme would have been better as the fennel fronds added almost nothing. A fresh bay leaf, rosemary, sage or oregano would all be excellent as well. Julian loved this dish, Sebastian however chose not to eat any, Julian happily declared, "Great, then I can eat yours."

Olive Oil Poached Cod with Roasted Tomatoes

1 1/4 lbs golfball or large tomatoes (I used the smaller ones as they are grown better)
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (use a high quality one here)
2 Tbsp aged balsamic vinegar (I used one aged for 21 years)
2 sprigs thyme or 1 fresh bay leaf, or 2 sprigs fresh rosemary or fresh oregano or 2 Tbsp fennel fronds
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 cups extra virgin olive oil (you do not need to use your highest quality oil here)
3/4 to 1 lb fresh cod fillets without skin

Preheat the oven to 375° and blanche and Peel the tomatoes. Cut each tomato into 4 wedges for golf ball sized ones or 8 for larger tomatoes. Place into a small roasting pan with the peeled garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, herbs, salt and pepper and bake until tender and soft. I cooked mine for 25 minutes. You are supposed to remove the tomatoes from the pan with a slotted spoon and then strain the cooking liquid. If I was at home I would have done that, however it was fine just spooned up as is.

To poach the fish heat the 2 cups olive oil to 120° in a small saucepan over a very low flame (it will reach this temperature very quickly I found). Season the fish on both sides with salt and freshly ground black pepper and slip into the warm oil. The oil needs to cover the fish completely. Cook the fish for 9 minutes on the first side. Monitor the temperature of the oil while cooking the fish, it should remain between 110° and 115° Mine slipped out of that range when I was checking on squabbling boys, but most of the time it was in the correct range. I found once it got to 115° it maintained its temperature very well with the heat turned off for about 5 minutes. Cook for 9 minutes on the second side or until done.

To serve place the roasted tomatoes on a plate and top with the poached fish. Drizzle some of the sauce over the top. The original recipe calls for serving it with blanched and butter sauteed broccoli rabe, I used broccolini instead.


  1. Looks heavenly. I'm always happy to have a new fish recipe!

  2. Wow that looks really good and sounds pretty easy too. If you can that in a NYC galley kitchen, I'm sure I can do it at home.

    Thanks for the recipe!

  3. Robin, I've been "clicking" around trying to find something to occupy myself and I remembered you.

    The fish looks delicious, somehow I knew one of the boys wouldn't eat it. :-)

    It's nice to "see" you again, I've got to remember to find you here more often.


  4. I just spent five days in NYC with my ten year old. We had a wonderful time and it's one of my favourite cities to visit. I can see why your so thrilled you can expose your kids to it. It's a great place for them and I felt completely safe while there. Oh, the fish looks delicious too!