Gotta love big flake fish – Cod with Capers and Onions
Fresh Cod in Capers and Onions
As a Caribbean person, I often forget the existence of fresh cod.
In my world, cod is called bacalao, usually comes in salt-crusted bricks or paddles, much as it was when it arrived in the New World, masterminded by intrepid Basques and other seafaring peoples, to make an important (and tasty) protein source last and last and last. It has to be soaked for ages with many changes of water and, if you don’t like fishy-fish, you are probably not going to like bacalao.
I promise that I will get to the fresh (non-fishy, non-salty) version in a second and give you a killer recipe that is all flair and no hard work and can be used with any firm-fleshed white fish, but indulge me for a moment as I take my tastebuds for a saunter down a Puerto Rican Cuisine Memory Lane.
Think batter-fried bacalaitos (best-eaten from a battered pot full of dubious grease bubbling over coals at a palm-roofed beachfront kiosk marshalled by an old lady in rollers and washed down with an ice-cold Medalla beer), or shredded into rice (arroz con bacalao) for the holidays, or dressed with vinaigrette and served with boiled tubers (serenata) on a Lenten Friday, or in a reddish sauce with hard-boiled eggs (bacalao a la vizcaína) any old time.
I am dabbing nostalgic tears from my eyes and nostalgic water from the corners of my mouth right now, overwhelmed by food memory.
Fortunately, my present latitude offers some solace.
As a Caribbean person adapting to living in the cruel Northeastern winter, frozen fish has taken the place of salted fish (and fresh too, to be honest). And so, I recently discovered the wonder of some vacuum-packed slablets of frozen fresh cod (a phrase which only makes sense in contextual comparison to salted fish) at, you guessed it, Costco Warehouse. As it is “Wild Alaskan”, it is also a good choice from a non-polluted environment and in terms of sustainability (visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch site if you are concerned about that sort of thing http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/cr_seafoodwatch/sfw_recommendations.aspx). I sauteed a couple experimentally just for me and the result was a quick yet good-looking plate of big flakes of fish just sliding apart and yet another way to incorporate capers into a dish.
This one I would definitely serve on date night.
Sauteed Fresh Cod Dressed with Onions and Capers
(tilapia or any firm white fish would work well here)
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbs butter
2 small slabs fresh cod filet (5-8 oz each)
Salt and pepper
½ medium onion, peeled and sliced thin
1-2 tsp capers, mostly drained
Heat oil and butter together in a heavy skillet at relatively high heat.
Using about ¼ tsp salt, sprinkle fish on all sides. Do the same with the pepper, preferably fresh cracked.
When the foaming of the butter subsides, cook fish on each side at high heat until just white. Then lower heat and cook on each side from 4-6 minutes each (I prefer my fish somewhat undercooked; if you are just learning to cook fish, simply use a fork or knife in the center to check for done-ness: no more translucence).
Remove cod and set on a plate (preferably warm). In the same skillet, sauté the onions in the oil and butter at medium high until wilted and somewhat tender. Add the capers to warm them up. Then spoon the onions and capers over the fish and serve.
This fish would be great over wilted greens, polenta or couscous or with Snap and Go Asparagus. I ate my second slice cold over salad and it was yummy!