My family loves cod because they like the delicate taste of white fish with large flakes and sturdy body. Unfortunately for us in the Northeast US, Atlantic Cod is on Seafood Watch list of fish to avoid. I don’t usually buy frozen fish, but I came across frozen Pacific Alaskan Cod at Trader Joe’s and wanted to try it. As I mentioned in my post Arctic Char with Basil Sauce, I try my best to buy sustainable fish when I can. Since cod is an affordable fish and works in so many different types of recipes, I was happy to consider frozen Pacific Cod as a viable option.
I also treated myself to a small tin of Spanish saffron and everyday I have dreamed about how to use it. Remembering a Spanish seafood stew, I decided to prepare the cod with Mediterranean flavors and style. Additionally, I wanted the saffron to be the primary seasoning, creating a recipe elegant enough to be served on Christmas Eve.
Tomato and saffron are a classic Mediterranean pair. Both ingredients balance each other because of the saffron’s warmth and distinct flavor cuts the acid in the tomatoes. To be honest, I love anything made with saffron but particularly enjoy tomato saffron broth with fish. The floral scent of crocus drifts up while I am cooking with saffron, and I feel like I am walking through a field of crocuses. Put these two family favorites together, and we have a special family dinner of cod braised in tomato saffron broth.
I am a big fan of using the simple technique of braising fish of which cod is very suited for. The fish is gently cooked in a broth that is also an integral part of the meal. The chunky tomatoes make the broth more substantive, while still keeping the broth bread dunking worthy. The final result is a fish dinner that is moist, delicate and multidimensional in flavor.
The total cooking time will vary depending of the thickness of the fish. Figure on the total cooking time to be anywhere from 7 to 15 minutes until done. My Pacific Cod fillets ranged in size from 5 oz to 6 oz, and was at most an inch thick. They took about 8 minutes to cook. Atlantic Cod tends to be thicker at the head end and should take longer to finish cooking. The fish is done when the meat sections gives way to the gentle pressure of your finger, and the sections begin to separate. The color of the fish will be a translucent white.
Do Ahead Tips for Cod Braised in Tomato Saffron Broth
To make life easier you can prepare the braising liquid ahead of time. About fifteen minutes before you want to eat, heat up the broth, then braise the cod. This recipe is very easy to make and flexible in design to fit into any schedule and a great meal to make for entertaining.
For those of you who like to serve fish for Christmas Eve dinner, or any special occasion, cod braised in tomato saffron broth would be a delicious treat. To send this recipe over the top, serve with saffron aioli smeared over toasted bread. Dunk the aioli smeared baguette into the broth and delight in a double saffron indulgence. Saffron aioli with cod in tomato saffron broth is out of this world delicious. Jamie Oliver has a short cut saffron aioli recipe with his Fabulous Fish Stew. It is really easy to make using store-bought mayonnaise. The instructions for the aioli saffron begin at step 2 in his recipe.
Hope everyone has a wonderful Hanukkah and a Merry Christmas. Enjoy!
Cod Braised in Tomato Saffron Broth
- 2 Tb olive oil
- 1 leek cleaned, cut in half lengthwise, then thinly sliced across the width (can substitute with 1 shallot, minced)
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 28 oz / 794 g can whole tomatoes
- 1 cup / 250 ml dry white wine
- 1/2 cup / 125 ml fish stock or clam juice
- 1/2 cup/ 125 ml juice from the can of tomatoes
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 sprigs of thyme tied together
- 1/2 tea saffron thread
- 1/2 tea Kosher salt
- 1/2 tea granulated sugar optional
- 4 4-6 oz / 113 - 180 g cod fillets or other white fish fillets black sea bass or halibut
Peel the garlic then slice each clove in half lengthwise. If there is a green grem remove it. Thinly slice each half across the width. Set aside.
Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large 12" saute pan, (see note.) Add the sliced leeks or minced shallots and saute until softened but not browned, about 6 minutes. Add the the sliced garlic to the leeks and cook until it becomes fragrant, 1 minute. Do not let the garlic brown. Turn up the heat to medium high and add the tomatoes, breaking up each tomato with your fingers or a knife while you add them to the pan. Add the wine, fish stock, canned tomato liquid, bay leaf, bundled thyme sprigs, saffron and Kosher salt. Stir to mix and bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
Turn the heat down to medium and cook the sauce for about 15 minutes at a gentle simmer. Stir occasionally. Taste the sauce and correct the seasoning. If it is too acidic add the sugar and add more Kosher salt if needed.
Place the fish fillets evenly spaced in the sauce. Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer and cover the pan with a lid. Cook the fish fillets until just done. The amount of cooking time will depend on the how thick the cod fillets are. I cooked using Pacific cod and they were thinner than Atlantic cod. The cod was just cooked at around 7 minutes. The cod is cooked through when you pres down on the thickest part of the fillet with your finger and the flakes give into the pressure and start to break apart. The flesh will have a translucent white color.
Spoon some broth in 4 large wide-mouth soup or pasta bowls. Place a fillet in each bowl with the broth. Garnish with minced fresh parsley. Serve with crusty french bread to help soak up the broth.
A sautee pan with its high sides is a perfect pan for braising fish. If you only have a skillet by all means give it a try, as long as you have a matching lid. Another option is to make the tomato saffron broth in whatever pan you have, then pour the broth into a large baking dish. Add the fish fillets and cover the fish with a sheet of parchment paper. Bake in a preheated 350 degree F / 175 degrees C / Gas Mark 4, oven for 10 minutes. Check for doneness, and, if necessary, continue cooking checking every couple of minutes until done.
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