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  • Writer's picturethe_maestro

Black cod: First 2019 Home cooked Dinner!

I'm finally back in Austin! I must admit I still feel a bit adrift, and after 6 weeks of traveling, it was difficult for me to focus on even the idea of being back "home"––what the hell am I going to do with no classes and little routine??

Fortunately, there is one aspect of my "routine" upon which I can always find grounding––my weekly visits to Central Market (aka "Steve's happy place"). After my therapy appointment, which happens to be right across the street from CM, I spent a good two hours immersed in my favorite foodie playground collecting goods for my week's meals.

I had a series of wonderful black cod dishes on my trip to California, so while I was perusing the seafood selections at CM, I was happy to find some beautiful black cod on special. I bought about a half a pound and let my imagination start running wild in the produce department, and wound up with a rough idea of a "recipe" in my head.

To get a bunch of flavor into the delicate fish, I decided to marinate the cod in some coconut milk and crushed plum with just a bit of lemongrass. I was originally planning to make a sort of variation on a beurre blanc, one of my favorite French sauces, with the fish, featuring these ingredients, but I got lazy when it came down to it. While I was preparing the slaw, I let the fish marinate for about 2 hours to really get the sweet coconut essence into the fish.

I next did some standard Steve "impromptu" with the Asian slaw: tossed together a healthy amount of red cabbage, shredded carrot and daikon radish, Brussels sprouts, sliced green onion, cilantro, and bell pepper. Dressed this with (approximately) a couple tablespoons of olive oil, a tablespoon of sesame oil, a tablespoon of soy sauce, quarter cup of rice vinegar, tablespoon of honey, dash of sea salt, sesame seeds, ginger, and red pepper flakes. Here's the key to slaw: spend some time letting it marinate! The flavors need some time to combine and make it particularly delicious, and the thicker cut veggies can stand up to the liquid of the dressing without wilting.

I bought some "Jade Pearl" (green) and "Forbidden" (black) rice to add to the dinner, just because they looked pretty! Added some coconut milk, sugar, and lime juice to the rice and topped off with butter, salt, and green onion. The rice didn't stay green, but it was still delicious!

When the fish had marinated sufficiently, I took it out of the mixture and wiped the fish down, and topped with a little fresh cracked black pepper and Cyprus sea salt. I heated the oven to 400 degrees, and heated the cast iron skillet on medium-high heat with some butter and sesame oil. Once the fat was smoking just slightly, I placed the fish, skin-side down, in the pan, and immediately did a round of basting (pro tip: basting is critical for ALL the proteins!). I let the fish cook, basting occasionally, for about 4 minutes, and then basted one last time before placing in the oven. There was some guesswork here, as the key is to get the fish to just where it flakes for maximum tenderness, but a couple of minutes in the oven produced the perfectly cooked fish, and I took it out and basted once again before serving.

The meal was absolutely delicious! I will be a bit more aggressive (flavor-wise) with the marinating liquid next time, for maximum flavor, but fish was beautifully cooked and had a nice sweetness from the coconut milk (and the crispy skin cooked in butter and sesame was an additional treat!), the slaw was lovely, healthy, and crisp, with a slight heat, and the rice rounded everything out.

Great way to start home cooking for the semester! I paired this, unsuccessfully, with an "orange" wine from Montinore Estates in the Willamette Valley, called "L'Orange." Despite its name, "orange" wine is not made with oranges; instead, it uses a white wine grape which is fermented briefly with the skins after the wine is "juiced." This is how red wine is made (except for a much longer period), but white wine generally doesn't get any contact with the skins in the fermentation process. This gives the wine some of the heft, body, and tannin that is common with red wine, but still with a white grape, and lending a slight (or sometimes not so slight!) orange color to the wine. Orange wine was a cult phenomenon for a while, but it increasingly popular, albeit still rare. This one was really lovely, with some nice bright tropical fruit and acidity contrasted with the bit of heft I'd expect from a skin-contact "white" wine.

While the wine was beautiful, and I proceeded to polish off the bottle (surprised?), the unique and acidic flavor profile didn't do much to compliment as much as overpower the delicate fish, although it stood up nicely to the slaw!

I bought a lot... a LOT... of great stuff at Central Market today, so expect more posts about my (hopefully) triumphant return to home cooking! Will consider posting the recipe for the slaw as part of my February recipe update!

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