For the Love of Cod

Basquaise in the deliciousness of this fish course

Everyone knows the feeling – when you’re away from home for a long time, all you can think about is what you’re going to eat when you get back. My job gives me the chance to prepare and sample culinary creations from around the world, but it’s still the same for me – nothing beats the taste of home. Much as I love the local cuisine here, after ten months of living, filming and managing a restaurant in Vietnam, after the endless servings of pho, banh mi and rice, when I finally had the chance to return to Los Angeles to be with my family at the end of the year, I was really looking forward to eating something I missed: Bouillabaisse, gumbo, or even a good cod Basquaise – all perfect for this cold winter weather in California.

But on the first night upon returning to the US, my wife and kids had just one request – excited to try something good from Vietnam, they wanted me to cook pho for them. That wasn’t quite what I had in mind, but I had to oblige nonetheless. They may have had their cravings, but I had my own too, and so I was really looking forward to making some seafood dishes. As I stared out at the endless Los Angeles rainfall, I felt as if I’d do anything for a spicy seafood dish to satisfy my palate, something like a good cioppino.

The next night – at last – everyone agreed to have a fish course, so (having eagerly prepared the sauce in advance) I decided on the cod Basquaise, a dish I’d originally picked up from the Éric Ripert Cookbook.

Basquaise is a Basque sauce or, in this case, a mélange of vegetables, including tomatoes and bell peppers. Cod is quite simply the perfect fish to accompany it – a delicious, sturdy, white-fleshed fish. So many people only know salted cod, but codfish is very versatile and can stand up to hearty sauces and vigorous cooking techniques.

So from me to you, here’s my welcome home dream dish – enjoy it in sunny Saigon, and be sure to pair it with a dry red wine, such as Bordeaux or Pinot Noir.

 

COD BASQUAISE

Basquaise:

3 tbsp EVOO

½ cup finely diced yellow onion

1 teaspoon minced garlic

¼ cup of small diced ham

½ cup of small diced red bell pepper

½ cup of small diced yellow bell pepper

1 cup diced seeded peeled tomato

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

½ cup dry red wine 1 tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley, S&P, Piment d’Espelette

Cod:

2 tbsp Canola Oil

4 cod fillets S&P

2 thyme sprigs

2 Garlic Cloves, Peeled and Halved

Heat the oil in a heavy sauté pan over a medium heat, add the onion and sauté until tender (about 5 minutes). Add garlic for 2 minutes, and then add the ham and bell peppers for about 5 minutes. Add the diced tomato and thyme, and simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes Stir in the chopped parsley, and season with S&P and Piment d’ Espelette.

Leave overnight.

When you’re ready to cook, heat a griddle pan over a medium high until hot. Add oil, and season the cod on both sides with S&P. Place the cod in the pan along with thyme and garlic.

Warm the Basquaise to a nice heat, and spoon the sauce onto the plates. Place the cod in the center and serve immediately.

BIO: Vietnamese chef Jack Lee has served a host of Hollywood A-listers from Angelina Jolie to Barbra Streisand, and recently returned as chef for Acacia Veranda Dining (149-151 Nguyen Du, D1). His biography by Oiwriter NPD Khanh will be released next year.

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