52 Cookbooks 44: Cod in red wine sauce

This week I was looking for a quick and easy fish dish. I had some skin-on cod pieces in the freezer and after a few meat eating nights fancied some fish, so when I saw this Rick Stein recipe and did a quick skim down the ingredients list I was sold. I had everything bar the fish stock which could easily be substituted so I was all set. The book I turned to was this Rick Stein's Seafood which I bought ages ago in an attempt to cook (and eat) more fish. I have used the book before but I'm still not a massively big fish eater. 


When I skim-read the ingredients list I should have known - it really should have set alarm bells ringing looking back. But it didn't, so off I went.  I started with the puy lentils adding vegetable stock (instead of fish stock), a clove and a bay leaf, some salt and a couple of slices of peeled onion. The recipe serves four and calls for 50g of puy lentils, which isn't very much at all. Still no alarm bells. But I wasn't cooking 25g of puy lentils - it didn't seem worthwhile, so as 50g wasn't very much I stuck with that. This at least was easy with everything simmering until the lentils were soft. Rick says to keep these warm, ok...

Next up was the sauce.  I was starting to question things as Rick only wanted 50g each of carrot, celery and onion and that was to serve four, so 25g of each for the two of us. And they needed to be finely chopped. Oh well, I was started now - it's not often in recipes I weigh onion but for this I did and I chopped them finely.  My lovely and finely chopped veg was sautéed in butter along with some spices - allspice, nutmeg and curry powder -after I'd brushed some of the melted butter onto the fish and seasoned it ready for grilling later on. 


Into the sauce went the red wine, some chicken stock and a pinch of sugar and salt, then this was boiled until the sauce was reduced. The recipe says it should reduce to about 65 ml - which seemed very precise to me. I started with 600ml of liquid so that's quite a lot of reduction. After a fair while boiling my sauce was nowhere near as reduced as it should be and yet I was still keeping those lentils warm. I was questioning Rick by this stage and I'm sure his ears must have been burning!

My sauce got to about 150ml - I only knew how much when I'd poured it into a jug! And I stuck with it at that, mainly because we were getting hungry! As I was reducing my sauce, I read ahead in the recipe to learn that those finely chopped veg needed to be strained out of the sauce. Well I had words with Rick right then, but strain the sauce I did.  Rick wanted me to strain it into a clean pan and keep it warm, well it went into a jug as I was still keeping those lentils warm remember? 

Only now could I turn my attention to the fish, the grill went on and the fish went under it for 8 minutes, until as the recipe said the skin was well browned. At this point MOH appeared in the kitchen looking hungry, and no doubt wondering who on earth I was talking to. Rick, I was talking to Rick and getting close to falling out with him (Rick, not MOH). 

While the fish was grilling I was supposed to be making a beurre manié to thicken the sauce - it's melted butter and flour. Infact I'd made it a bit before in readiness for the sauce reducing as it should. By the time I wanted to use it, it was more set than soft. So I thought I'd pop it into the microwave to soften it up. Although in my haste I caught the bowl on the door and it skidded across the kitchen floor.  MOH beat a hasty retreat from the kitchen to ground far safer. Once he knew I'd not thrown the beurre manié at him he came back and offered to help. 

Well as the sauce had been giving me all sorts of trouble I delegated it to him, here's an action shot of the beurre manié being whisked into the sauce. While he did that and the sauce started behaving and thickening I was still keeping those lentils warm, checking on the fish, finding some plates to warm and preparing some kale to accompany this. 


With everything (almost) back under control it was time to serve up, and it does look a bit fancy. Rick - we were back talking again - said to put the lentils in the middle of the plate, place the fish on top and serve the sauce around the side. Well it did look pretty good, I'll give him that!


The verdict

- I should have read the recipe more carefully, as that would most likely have given me some clues as to how involved this dish was. It wasn't the quick and easy fish dish I hoped for... I think from start to end this took about two hours. 

- I don't know why the sauce took so much longer to reduce and still didn't get to the reduction Rick said. It was though, a great tasting sauce and it'd be good with steak too.

- despite falling out with Rick along the way (not that he knew!) this was a very good dish and very tasty. And one I very much enjoyed eating, so Rick is forgiven! 

- I'd eat this again, but next time I think I'll let Rick cook, I think he owes me!

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