Sautéed Cod With Potatoes in Chorizo-Mussel Broth
e like to do our
fanciest meal of the week on Friday. Being adventurous
we don't want to do anything we've done before (which sometimes can and
led to disaster). We started off thinking it was time for a mussel
dish. They are easy and fast to cook and we've found almost always
great. Casting about we came upon a recipe with mussels by Eric Ripert,
chef and part owner of what is considered to be one of the
best restaurants in the world, Le
in New York City. We have
several of his cookbooks, Avec
Eric and Le Bernardin,
and have enjoyed many of the recipes. We see that he is a big fan of
cod. This recipe is more cod than
mussels and together with Spanish chorizo creates a marvelously complex
isn't a particularly hard recipe, and it is so good
consider making it the centerpiece of a New Year's Eve dinner (the
fanciest night of the year for us).
We've made a
few changes to the recipe to suit our tastes and make it even a bit
easier. Much of it can be done in advance which makes it perfect for a
Fresh vs. Frozen
heard that fresh fish is better than frozen. It may have been true.
However, these days it may no longer be the
Fish is most definitely best when it has just been hauled out of the
water. One of the best fish meals we've ever had was made in a single
frying pan in Alaska. It was halibut that probably
had been caught no more than 10 hours before we cooked it. Made some
rice, got some fruit salsa from the grocery and fried up the fish.
Stunning. But we digress..
"Fresh" fish in the groceries where we shop could be several days old
if not more. It may not have been frozen, but
is it really fresh?
Today seafood can be flash frozen on the boat just after being caught.
freezing is far more efficient than what happens when you stick
something in a home freezer. Some say that they can't tell the
between fresh and frozen. Maybe, but.... there are caveats.
(Norwegian: Stiftelsen for industriell og
, a large
independent research organization in Europe along with the
Norwegian Institute of
Nutrition and Seafood Research
and and the
Icelandic research institute Matís
specifically looked at
the freezing and handling of cod. You can read all about it here
Or, if you are
truly into reading scientific journals, the original study is here
They found three requirements:
- Freeze immediately after catching.
- The fish has to be properly kept frozen until it is thawed.
- The fish must be thawed in water that meets certain
immediately before it is sold. Adding bubbles to the water will make it
even better. (The scientific paper explains what they did but we gather
the point is to better distribute heat in the container.)
Which brings us to the cod we had for our dish. It was
wonderful, maybe some of the best cod we've had. Our experience with
frozen cod has been dismal (though next time we'll try the thawing in
water idea and see what happens). It was purchased at a store that has
consistently had extremely good (though not cheap) fresh fish.
In the end, whether you use frozen or fresh depends on where you
get it. This dish really
calls out for the very best fresh (or fresh
'tasting') fish you can find.
Now that we've gone on and on about proper freezing we can tell you
that we have found that in our experience, the 'fattier' fishes seem to
withstand freezing better than others. We do not include cod in that
Often we purchase frozen wild salmon and it has mostly been pretty good
sometimes extraordinary. The picture is Artic Char which is in the
salmon/trout family. It was recently on sale and we bought a few
pounds, cut it into serving portions
and froze it ourselves then put it in sealing bags. It seems to work.
the other hand, our experience with frozen cod, halibut and swordfish
has been pretty dreadful.
efore we knew
anything about it, we thought all chorizo was a fatty, often red
colored ground meat that comes as sausages, usually
at Mexican markets. It is a fresh, raw ingredient that looks
ground beef and needs to be cooked. A great ingredient,
but it isn't the chorizo you want for this dish. You want
(We make a really good burrito with chicken and Mexican chorizo
covered with cheese and guacamole, but that's maybe another post
Spanish Chorizo is more like salami. It is a dried and cured
sausage made from
pork and pork fat. It will be seasoned with
smoked paprika which makes it look really red. There are lots of
varieties with different spices and can have added chile to make it a
'hot' product. For our dish, just about any Spanish Chorizo will do.
Find something you like.
Spanish Chorizo is going to have a casing. It is
sometimes hard to detect, but you do want to remove it.
here are so many
different great things you can do with mussels. Cooking them
takes just about no time and we've found that lots of recipes can be
adapted (like we did here) to let you cook them in advance of the final
When you buy mussels they are
alive which means they have to
breathe. Some stores stick them in a plastic bag and wrongly knot the
bag up. As
soon as we get to the car we open the bag. We also bring ice packs and
one of those special insulated bags to transport them home (you could
cooler with ice). At home, do not
store them in
them in a bowl and cover with a damp cloth.
We went to the 'BIG NAME IN FISH' that is about 10 miles from us to buy
mussels... once. They immediately dumped a bunch into a bag
and sent us on our way. Outside we took a quick look and found that
many of them were 'open'. Open isn't necessarily bad, but can also
mean they are dead. If you lightly tap the mussel and it closes then
it's alive and that's ok. This was not done. We went back in, insisted
on all closed mussels and never shopped there again.
The common theory is that when cooking a mussel, if it doesn't open,
throw it out. But wait. According to the Australian
a myth that started around 1970 and was repeated and grew until
everybody believed it true.
On the other hand, this
repeats the 'rule'. IF a producer of mussels
doesn't get it right, who is
right? We have no clue. And why should you
believe anything you read on the internet anyhow?
Before using them they should be rinsed and scrubbed clean. Remove any
beards (usually you can pull them out without the shell opening) and
take off any barnacles.
Garlic and Shallots:
Slicing or Mincing?
his recipe calls
for a certain amount of sliced garlic and shallots and a certain amount
of minced garlic and shallots. We don't claim to be French chefs (or
even any sort of chef) and a
quick look 'round the web didn't provide many answers that made sense
of the original instructions. Somebody said chewing on a sliced piece
of garlic adds an
extra little kick. But since the sliced garlic (and shallots) in this
recipe is sautèed, then cooked in a broth, then discarded
we have some
trouble seeing just why they are sliced instead of minced. We figure
that so long as you strain them
completely with a fine mesh sieve you can go the mincing route
which is probably easier.
OK. We can think of one possible reason. The shallots and garlic
used in two different points in the recipe. Mr. Ripert's recipe only
lists an ingredient once. Maybe it just makes it
easier to remember that you shouldn't dump all of them into the first
part you are working on (something we've done more often than we want
to admit), or makes your shopping list easier. Our recipe has been
show when and where multiple uses of an ingredient are employed. To us
that makes the cooking session much easier.
We therefore suggest that using all minced
garlic and shallots will be just fine. If Mr. Ripert happens to one day
run across this post, well, we'd love to know why his recipe says what
it does. We freely admit we might be missing something. We'll probably
just mince everything next time.
By the way, we got sucked into trying a Kyocera ceramic knife at a
local market's live demonstration. We were actually pretty amazed at
how well this paring
knife can make really thin slices; same with tomatoes. We can recommend
it with a caveat. The thing is really
sharp. We haven't gotten hurt...so far....
As written, this serves 4. We made a half recipe for us. You certainly
don't have to be
terribly exact with most of the ingredients.
With Potatoes in Chorizo-Mussel Broth
For the Mussels
For the Broth
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced (but read what we said
- 3 large shallots, thinly sliced (but read what we said
- 1 TB extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup dry white wine (or in a pinch, decent Dry Vermouth)
- 1 1/2 pounds mussels
For the Potatoes
- Don't forget you'll have reserved cooking liquid from the
- 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup minced shallots
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- 4 oz. Spanish Chorizo, peeled and sliced thin
- 1 cup clam juice
- 1-2 TB Italian parsley, chopped
- 1-2 TB lemon juice (to taste)
- 1 branch each thyme and rosemary
For the Fish
- 1 large head of garlic
- 1 tsp or so olive oil for roasting the garlic
- 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
- 4 TB butter (or less to taste)
- 5 TB extra virgin olive oil (or less to taste)
- 3-4 TB Italian parsley, chopped
- 1 TB lemon juice (or more to taste)
- Salt to taste
- 20 to 24 ounces skinless cod fillet, in 4
portions. Try to
get them really thick. (OK, we admit that our portion sizes were more
like 8oz each.)
- Olive Oil for frying (we used about 2TB but really depends
on size of
pan and what you like)
- salt and white pepper (though actually we used black)
- 4 branches each thyme and rosemary as garnish
the oven to 350 degrees F. Cut off the top of the head of garlic such
that all cloves are exposed (we find this makes it easier to extrude
the garlic when cooked). Discard the top. Drizzle the olive oil
over the exposed cloves. Wrap in foil and bake until soft, about 40
the cloves of roasted garlic and squeeze out the garlic. Sometimes you
can get most of it just by squeezing the whole head. Set aside. You'll
use it in the potatoes.
TIP: Since for us we halved the recipe, we had 1/2 of the garlic left
over. We spread it on toast and had it as an appetizer before the fish.
We also had some spiced olives and some really good
smoked sardines from a jar. We did say
this was going to be a fancy meal
At this point you have a
decision to make.
If you are making the mussels and broth
earlier in the day or even the day before, which we think is a pretty
good idea, you don't need the potatoes yet. If you are making it all in
'real time' then you'll want to get started on the potatoes about now.
We have those steps below
Mussels and Broth
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in 3-quart saucepan. Add the sliced
shallots and sliced garlic (or minced, if you read what we said
) and cook over low heat
until soft but not colored, Add the wine,
bring to a simmer and add the mussels. Cover and cook until mussels
open, about 3 minutes. (Make sure to read about what happens if they
don't open above
mussels and reserve, covered. Drain the cooking liquid
through a fine sieve and reserve. Clean the pan, or, of
course, use another one!
We are keeping the mussels and the broth
separated so that when you reheat the broth you can get it hot then
shucked mussels. This way they'll get reheated without really cooking
them any longer.
Place 2 tablespoons of oil in what was the mussel pan (or a new pot/pan
using). Add the minced shallots and
minced garlic. Sauté until soft. Add the chorizo slices, and
sauté until they start to brown. Add the clam juice and
cooking liquid. Bring to a simmer, add 1 branch each thyme and
rosemary, remove from heat.
The recipe says
sautè the chorizo until it starts to turn brown. We found that with the
product we were using, by the time it was turning brown it was also
burning. Maybe we should have gone more slowly or maybe more oil or
maybe...? In any event take care not to burn it. As it turned out it
didn't taste burned in the end, but we thought it was going to be a
close call. Let's just say fry them ... some.
chorizo will act differently.)
TIP: If you want to do the mussels ahead of time, take the broth
and the mussels (covered) and put
them in the fridge until you need them. Reheat the broth then add the
mussels. This means you can actually cook the mussels earlier in the
day (or even the day before) when you bring them home from the store
and you don't have to worry about keeping them alive. And you've
already done about 85% of the cooking when its time
Mr. Ripert's Way:
the potatoes in pot of salted water to cover, bring to a boil,
and cook over medium heat until very tender, about 30 minutes. Drain
we've talked about elsewhere on this site, we love to use our
pressure cooker for potatoes. We cut them into pieces about 2 or 3"
wide and put them in the steamer tray that came with the pressure
cooker. We don't have an instant pot, but we assume it has the same
stuff. We put 1 1/2 cups of water into our rather large pressure
Put the steamer tray into the cooker, fasten the lid and let
come to high steam. We
cook them 8 minutes then quick release the pressure. Since
the whole process only takes about 10 minutes you have a lot of leeway
in deciding at what point to cook them. Admittedly the time difference
isn't all that
great, but somehow we feel like we're more in control.
To finish the potatoes, Mr. Ripert has you use the same potato pot. But
since we had
cooked the potatoes in the pressure cooker, we opted for another,
smaller, non-stick pot that meant less muss and fuss on cleanup (and we
have a nylon potato masher so as not to harm to pot). So even if you
did it Mr. Ripert's way, you might still consider another pot.
the oil, butter, parsley, and reserved roasted garlic to the
cooked potatoes in the pot. Mash. Add the lemon juice and salt to
taste. Stir to incorporate everything. Set aside over very
From the picture it looks like we added some black pepper,
not called for anywhere. Force of habit. Didn't hurt! We'd probably do
NOTE: We're not in the habit of using this
much oil and butter in our mashed potatoes, but this is a special dish
and deserves the full treatment. However, you probably could cut down
on the fat if you prefer.
Pat fish dry, and season with salt and pepper on both sides. It is
really important to get the fish as dry as possible as you
will get far better browning.
Put the oil in a heavy
skillet large enough to hold the fish without crowding.
Place over high heat. When oil is hot, sauté fish, turning
once, until golden brown.
You'll notice that we've got 2 big pieces and some little ones. The cut
that we purchased was about 1.1 lbs. It was also tapering a bit at the
end, so we trimmed it so that the main pieces would be a bit smaller
and would cook at the same rate. And, we ended up with a nice sandwich
from the little pieces the next day.
NOTE: A lot of the cod we see around is pretty thin. You want to get
nice thick pieces. Too thin and the fish will be overcooked by the time
you have gotten it nicely browned. So how long to cook? The original
recipe said 4 to 5 minutes a side. On our stove and in our (really nice
carbon steel that gets really hot--you could also use cast
iron, or of course whatever you've got) pan that was way
One of the worst things
you can do
in cooking is
to overcook fish. We strongly suggest a good instant read thermometer
(our favorite being the Thermapen from Thermoworks. After going through
tons of quick read thermometers we've found it to be the fastest and
best (and no, we don't get paid for the plug). Look for a temperature
about 125-130 deg. F. for thick cod. Another trick is to get one side
(the one you are going to show off) nicely browned then flip over and
finish the fish till done and not worry about being totally browned.
You'll be showing off the browned side and the other side is going to
be sitting in potatoes and broth anyhow. Remember that the fish is
going to keep cooking somewhat after you take
it out of the pan, especially since you are putting it on top of hot
potatoes with a hot broth. We've picked 125-130 as being at the very
low end of doneness. You might like yours cooked slightly more (another
5 -10 degrees) but we find that is overcooked to our taste. At 140 deg.
in the pan you're heading for a bad result as far as we're concerned.
Reheat the chorizo broth. Over low heat immediately add the mussels
and lemon juice.
Remove thyme and rosemary, and add the parsley. This just before
To serve, place a portion of potatoes in the center of each of four
soup plates. Place a portion of fish on potatoes. Spoon the
chorizo-mussel broth around the potatoes. Garnish with thyme and
course the garnish is completely unnecessary, but the odds are you
would have bought more than you needed (and yes you must use fresh
Ours came from the garden.
s a great 'special' meal, but
easy enough to do almost any time. Which means it is a really great
special ocassion meal. We expect the hardest part is just acquiring the
We had this spectacular dish with a really good, rich, not particularly
Now, if you are lucky enough to still have some Nalle Chard around, go
for it. The picture is our last bottle.
You might also try the Nalle Sparkling or possibly a Nalle Pinot, and
certainly the Nalle 2017 Zin which pairs nicely with the Chorizo.
is a summary
of the recipe in a .pdf you can print