Wednesday, December 5, 2007

On The Fifth Day of Christmas: Dinnertime with A Messy Salad & Baked Cod

Look, I know this looks like a pile o' mess. But trust me, it doesn't taste like a mess. What it does taste like is fantastic. I promise. Sweetness from the beets, salty capers, starchy potatoes, mustardy hotness and smoky bacon backdrops flaky, clean-tasting cod. It's lovely, if you ask me. It fits right in here during winter - not being very Christmas-sy, or too heavy. Lord knows there's enough of that kind of food around in December.

And there's a lot you can do regarding the attractiveness of the dish - like not mix the beets in with the rest of the ingredients, but just gently bounce a couple round the top of the rest of the "salad" before serving. That way, everything won't be pink. Even though I'm all for pretty girl colors in food, there's gotta be a limit.

The dish does take a little time to put together, but I'm thinking you could make a couple shortcuts. Like use already pickled beets, boil the eggs the day before, and use leftover boiled potatoes. It's mostly a matter of assembling, and because I serve the vegetables only lukewarm, it's not that much a matter of timing everything, but just doing them.The blueprint for this dish is one I got from Jens, the chef at one of my old work places - and I am ever so grateful. Here's what you have to do:

The key to the vegetables are to make the pieces the same size - I aim for about 1x1 cm. You need a couple hardboiled eggs - one per person will suffice. Peel them, and cut them into pieces of your chosen size.

The potatoes are the same thing - you need small bites. I plan for 2-3 per person, depending on size. Roast them in a pan (you could probably roast them in the oven, too, but I've never done that) - they need to go all golden and slightly crispy. Remember to salt and pepper generously.

With the beets, I usually bake a couple in the oven (160 degrees Celcius, 1-2 hours, depending on size - I try and get the baby-fist sized ones, and use one pr. person), peel them and cut them up. Then, just before assembly, I roast them quickly, with a tablespoon of red wine vinegar. So you see, this is basically pickled beets. Just make sure, if you choose to use jarred, pickled beets instead, that you take them out of the fridge in good time - you don't want ice cold beets!

Bacon. Ah, bacon. You like bacon too, don't you? Again, cut a nice slab (1-1½ one centimeter thick piece pr. person) into the same size as the vegetables. Fry these slowly, making sure they release a lot of their lovely fat, but of course, not letting them end up all dry. Transfer to a piece of kitchen paper, allowing for some degreasing. For God's sake, keep the fat on the pan! This is the gold you need to make your bacon vinaigrette.

The vinaigrette I make is very simple - onto the still hot bacon fat, I pour about 5 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar pr. person (don't use your most expensive one - a decent, but fairly priced one will do), let it cook down a bit, then add 2 teaspoons of coarse grain mustard, salt and pepper and stir that in. Now you have sauce for your dish. Keep it warm.

For the cod, I go for about 150-200 g. per person. Gently rub it with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and bake in a 200 degrees (celsius) hot oven, 6-7 minutes.

Now, when you put in the cod, pop a couple of plates into the oven as well - the vegetables are lukewarm, but there's no need for them to go even colder than they are. And people are always so impressed when you serve on hot plates ;) As the cod is baking, gently mix the potatoes, egg, bacon and a couple tablespoons capers - I use the ones preserved in vinegar, but if you prefer salted ones that you soak in a little water first, that's okay with me - and a bit of finely minced parsley together. Salt and pepper to taste. A minute before the cod is done, take out your plates, and spoon the vegetables onto the hot plates. Top with the beets. Arrange the cod on top of the vegetables, drizzle with the bacon vinaigrette, sprinkle with a bit more parsley (which I totally forgot to do in the picture). Serve, straight away.

That wasn't hard, was it?


santos. said...

i love all the flavours involved, this sounds like something i would like. i'm looking forward to bouncing beets on the top of my salad sometime soon :)

Michèle said...

Girlfriend I LOVE bacon and I actually think that salad looks gorgeous.. It kind of reminds me of my favourite restaurant in London (Moro)--their food is to die for but they don't get all fussy with plating it, nor do they need to! If it tastes fantastic that's all that matters. I'd happily dig into that messy salad ;)

Jenny said...

Hello from Pennsylvania. I prepared this lovely dish last night. My husband and I both enjoyed it very much and will make it again. I used Halibut, because that’s what looked best at the fish market. I was out of parsley, so I used fresh chives instead. Thanks again for sharing a delicious recipe, it is a winner!

Zarah Maria said...

Santos - nothing like bouncing beets, is there ;)

Michèle - I saw him first! Bacon is mine, and we'll marry! As soon as he asks!;) Moro sounds like my kind of place, too - I'm all for pretty plating, but sometimes, it can get too fussy...

Jenny - I'm so pleased you enjoyed the dish, and that you adapted it with great results. When I told Martin you'd used halibut, he was all: ooooh! We'll have to try that next time! Thank you for leaving a comment!

SusyCS said...

Hi Zarah Maria!
Your salad reminds me of one we prepare in Peru called "Ensalada Rusa" (Russian Salad), which has cooked beets, potatoes, carrots and peas. The dressing is plain mayo, which of course, turns pink! Will try your version soon! :)