Monday, December 14, 2009

Keller Cod

Thomas Keller's cookbook "Ad Hoc at Home" was due at the library this weekend, and I couldn't return it without trying a dinner recipe. I'd already sampled a red wine vinegar and Dijon mustard salad dressing. Very tasty and surprisingly simple and easy.

A cod dish caught my eye. Cod was once so abundant in New England that it was considered poverty food, something poor people ate when they couldn't afford meat. Alas, those days are long gone. So severely fished out are George's Banks off Massachusetts that cod has become something of an expensive delicacy.

I haven't eaten a lot of cod in my life and, to be honest, often been disappointed. This is a fish, I've found, that has to be fresh. I recommend passing on the deep-fried slabs at roadside clam shakes (stick with the strip clams).

My fish monger had really good cod on Saturday, so I bought a piece and forged forward. The recipe was simple: Dijon mustard, fresh bread crumbs and finely chopped parsley. I don't want to be too specific to respect the copyright, but it was basically a fast sear followed by a surprisingly short finish in a not especially hot oven. I was doubtful that the fish would cook as fast as the recipe said, but it did.

As I made the dish, I found myself being unusually meticulous and methodical. There was something about making a Keller recipe that made me slow down and perform each step with extra care and focus. It's sort of like listening to Sinatra. You hang on every word, every breath, every nuance.

The end result was superb, by far the best cod I ever tasted. The fish came out flaky, but moist with a rich, milky flavor that melded beautifully with the bread crumbs and mustard. For the first time in my life, I understood how people could rave about cod.

I might been too hard on this cookbook. This is truly a great recipe.

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