Here is a dish I did recently for a dinner party with comedian
and his wife
. I had some beautiful black cod and wasn't sure what direction I wanted to go with it. Sometimes, especially in the summer time in California there is just too many options when it comes to fruit and vegetables. I did pick up some really sweet champagne grapes and I wanted to use them some how. I also had corn, veal, eggplant, tons of tomatoes, zucchini, artichokes, cucumbers, nectarines, plums, etc....... I used the veal and corn for the second course. Plums I turned into dessert. I decided to use the other vegetables for another meal and concentrate on how to bring this first course all together. Black cod because of its fat content takes on a wonderful natural crust when it is seared, and I wanted to add a "crust" with out adding it on top of the fish. I had some home made croutons that I made the day before and thought to crush those up. Then I thought of adding fried capers. Frying capers not only changes the texture of the caper but intensifies the flavor as well. I had made red pepper romesco sauce the day before and thought that would go perfectly with the crispy fish because it had some spice. Add the champagne grapes for a little sweetness and the result was fantastic! Everyone completely cleaned their plates and Ron said "it was one of the best things he has ever put in his mouth" I told him "Great! because I had never made it before", which he responded "way to wing it, chef"! Everyone had a comment on how delicious the dish was. A great start to the dinner, that is always what the chef wants to see. Here is the recipe which is pretty easy.
1 lb of cleaned black cod cut into 4 oz pieces
1 cup of cleaned champagne grapes
2 cup of homemade croutons crushed (butter, olive oil, old bread diced, salt and pepper)
1/2 cup of capers fried
3 tbsp of chopped chives
1 lemon zested
2 tbsp of olive oil
Red Pepper Romesco Sauce
1 jar roasted red bell pepper or 3 large roasted
1/3 cup roasted almonds (marcona) or any other nut
3 garlic cloves
1 Fresno chili (jalapeño or Serrano for heat)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese or manchego
1 1/2 cup olive oil
For the Romesco
Put garlic, roasted red peppers, fresno chile and almond in the blender. Pulse a few times to get everything blended and then turn on high and Drizzle olive oil in until a smooth purée. Finish with cheese and salt. Puree until smooth adjust seasoning if needed and set aside until ready to use.
For the "Crunch"
In a small fryer or pot with vegetable oil, bring oil to 350 degrees. If using a small pot, have a lid handy. Take your capers and drain well. Then place into the fryer and immediately put the lid on to protect from splattering oil all over (because of the water content in the capers). Take the lid off after about 30 seconds and fry the capers for another 45 seconds. They should start to open and crisp-en up. Drain on a paper towel. They shouldn't need more salt added to them.
Take your home made croutons and crush them up in a plastic bag with a back of a small pan or pot. You can put them in the food processor as well but don't pulse too fine. Place in a bowl and set aside. Take your lemon zest and add to the bread crumbs. Add the capers, chives, and champagne grapes. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if any is needed.
In a large saute pan on medium high heat add your olive oil. Season the back cod on both sides with salt and then place the fish fillet side down. Don't touch the fish and let it cook on medium high heat for 3 minutes and then you might need to turn down the heat to medium or medium low if the fish is getting too dark. You do want a nice golden brown crust on the fish. The fish should cook 90 percent of the way on the first side. When the edges of the fish look like they are cooked all the way around the fish and the bottom has a nice golden brown crust, flip over the fish and cook for another minute. Turn off the heat while you plate.
Add a spoonful of sauce down on the plate. Then add your fish next to it. Add your "crunch" next to the fish in neat line. Serve and enjoy!