If there is an easier fish cooking recipe on this green planet (or its blue oceans) I have yet to hear of it. I make salmon this way, striper, redfish, lake trout, halibut, but most of all, cod. Ned Baldwin showed me the secret when we were writing our cookbook “How To Dress An Egg.” It’s his version of a poached cod that a friend made for him in Norway when he was traveling around trying to figure out what to do with his life. This was before he opened the restaurant, Houseman, where he was “discovered” by the New York Times. Food critics think of him as a chef who fishes a lot, but I think of him as a fisherman who chefs for a living and is not half-bad at it.
Although it’s not absolutely necessary, this recipe calls for Kombu, available online and in many markets. It’s dried kelp, a form of seaweed. Japanese chefs have used it for centuries to enhance the flavor of cooked food. It is the most concentrated source of the mysterious flavor called umami. What is umami, you ask? There are volumes written about the science of it, but the best explanation is the translation of umami into English—deliciousness.
Poached Fish Recipe:
- 1½ pounds fish fillet, about 1-1 ½” thick divided into 8 pieces
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 6” squares of kombu (optional)
Salt the cod for at least an hour before cooking (even longer is better). This tightens the flesh a bit, so it holds together better when you cook it.
Bring 2 quarts of water and the kombu to a simmer. It’s important that you use this much water so that the water will retain enough heat when you add the fish. Bear in mind, poaching water doesn’t bubble, while a simmer does. Add the fish. When the fish hits the water, the temperature will drop, likely to around 160°F—an ideal poaching temperature. I find that the fish is done after about 5 minutes. You can gauge doneness by trying to flake a piece with a fork. If it flakes, it’s cooked. Take the fish from the water using a slotted spoon, or any utensil that will allow the water to drain off. You’re done.
Sprinkle some flaky salt and a drizzle of olive oil and serve….or…try it with Green Goddess Dressing.
Green Goddess Dressing Recipe:
I like this dressing on just about any white-fleshed fish. In the spring on the East Coast, I do it with poached shad filets. It’s also terrific with any salad with sturdy greens such as romaine lettuce, endives, Savoy cabbage. Use it as a coleslaw dressing for a fish sandwich. It is said to have been invented in the 1920s in San Francisco in honor of the play, The Green Goddess, about a beautiful English woman who enchanted a cruel rajah and thereby saved three of her fellow Englishmen from being beheaded. Maybe true, or at least it’s one of those stories that journalists call “too good to check.”
- ½ cup scallion tops
- ¼ cup watercress
- ¼ cup fresh herb leaves—parsley, chervil, tarragon, cilantro, dill—singly or any mixture you have in the garden or fridge
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons sour cream
- 2 anchovy fillets
- Juice of ½ lemon
Put all the ingredients in a blender with 1 tablespoon water and run at high speed for about 30 seconds.
Recipe by Peter Kaminsky a long-time fly fisherman and author. His Outdoors column appeared in the New York Times for more than 30 years. He was a contributing editor to Field & Stream. Among his fishing books, the classic The Moon Pulled Up An Acre of Bass. He fishes New York Harbor a lot. Be sure to check out his most recent book, Fly Fishing for Dummies below.
Photos by Kirk Marks, an angler, photographer, and culinary aficionado based in Kent Island, Maryland. Give him a follow at @kirkymarks.