Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Cod - The Other Other White Meat

Good evening everyone! Tonight's menu item is an old favorite - cod. We're going to be featuring a lot more fish recipes over the next few weeks for three reasons. 1) We stated at the beginning of the year that we're going back to our roots and focusing more on healthy cooking. Our goal is to not just show you how to cook like a chef - but cook like a chef who wants to live past 50 years old. Sadly, there is a distinction. Fish, chicken and whole grain pastas are great ways to cook like a professional chef, but still manage your waistline and heart health at the same time.

2) Our local Hy-Vee has expanded its fish assortment. Items like swordfish, flounder and more have begun appearing on the shelves (or more accurately, in the freezer section). We particularly like Hy-Vee's fish assortment because they use a flash frozen fish. The fish are fresh caught, cleaned and immediately frozen and shipped to the store. We've found that this leads to great flavor of fresh caught fish - without the timeframe to cook it immediately (like you would have to with a fresh caught fish).

3) Finally, and most importantly (in my opinion) fish has built a bad reputation for itself. It seems too many times we say 'we're making (cod, halibut, tilapia, salmon etc.)' and people respond with -I don't like fish - I've found that's because most people have had one bad experience with fish (either undercooked salmon or under seasoned cod - or out of season anything) and have decided that all fish is going to taste bland, stale, musty or whatever negative term you can think of.

We've proven with multiple fish recipes that breaded, pan seared, pan sauced, curried, chili powdered fish are all great methods for cooking a nice fillet. I have an assortment of recipes up my sleeve for multiple cuts of fish and figured there is no time like the present to eat healthier and show our readers just how versatile of a dish fish can be. We'll get things started tonight with a concept that I tested on chicken earlier this year - and with a few tweaks, I'll show you how you can apply the same breading principles to a nice cod fillet. Let's get started!

The Recipe: Almond & Lemon Crusted Cod Fillets
Recipe Inspiration From: Eatingwell.com

What You'll Need:

2 Cod Fillets
Zest Of 1 Lemon
1 Teaspoon Dried Dill
1/2 Cup Sliced Almonds (Roughly Chopped)
1 Teaspoon Olive Oil
1/2 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
2 Teaspoons Dijon Mustard 

Begin by preheating your oven to 400 degrees and covering a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.

The original version of this dish had us toast the almonds in a skillet with some bread crumbs to create a nice, complex breading for an entire chicken breast. This version is a little more simple. Since we're going to be cooking sliced (I.E. already thin) almonds in the oven, there is no need to toast the almonds before hand. They should brown up nicely on their own without the extra cooking. In addition, we're not breading the entire fillet - instead, we're simply creating a nice crunchy hat for the fillet to wear. This not only simplifies the cooking process, but it also lowers calories without a loss of flavor.

In a medium bowl, combine the lemon zest (free tip - if you have a rotato - you and place the lemon on the rotato and peel the skin off that way. The rotato expertly removes skin only (no rind) and you have perfect lemon zest in a lot lest time than it would take to use a zester) dill, almonds, olive oil and salt. Mix until well combined.

On each cod fillet, spread 1 tablespoon of the dijon mustard. Next, spread the almond breading onto the mustard which acts like a glue, keeping all of your tasty almond breading in place. Be sure to press the almond mixture into the fillet - and spread it on thick if you wish. With such thin almonds, there really is no reason to be concerned with over-breading the top of the fish. (Within reason obviously, 3 inches of breading might fall into the 'overkill' category)

Place the fillets on the greased baking sheet and into the oven. Cook until opaque in the center, roughly 7 to 9 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillet. Serve with a lemon wedge and enjoy.

You can also serve this dish on top of a bed of cooked spinach or with a side of greens. The flavors of the fillet compliment a summer salad well too.

The Results:

While this recipe was built off of the foundation of my almond covered chicken, it ended up tasting like its own brand new recipe. The lemon, almond, cod combination created a fantastic (springtime like) flavor that made it hard to believe you were eating fish. The breading ends up being slightly crispy without being overly crunch and packs so much flavor you don't even need any dipping sauce for the cod. For some people, that may be hard to imagine, but it just goes to show that with the right combination of herbs and other ingredients, fish can shine on its own. This is a delicious, simple, quick supper time fix that you simply cannot skip out on. If you love fish - you'll love the dish. If you're on the fence, this might just convince you to change your mind.

That's all we have for you this evening. I'm back in the kitchen tomorrow night with a recipe that pulls inspiration from the an unlikely place. Not to mention, it includes a few ingredients that I never thought I would use, let alone combine in my lifetime. (Nothing gross, I promise!) Tune in tomorrow night to see what I've got cooking. Until then,


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