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October 06, 2010


Roasted Cod with Mussels and Chorizo Dominic Armato

Hot damn! A recipe! When's the last time we had one of those? ... March of '09?!? Geezum crow, that's a long time. Well, what the heck. Dinner tonight was a little grocery store improvisation that turned out pretty well. I actually took photos and mostly remembered what I put in there and how I did it. Howz'bout we throw one up there?

Dominic Armato

a loaf of good bread
6 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
3 cloves garlic, divided
pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika)
1 cod fillet, 12-16 oz.
2 1/2 oz. dried Spanish chorizo
1 large leek
2 medium tomatoes
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
a pinch of saffron threads
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
1/2 C. dry white wine
15-20 black mussels, scrubbed and debearded
Roasted Cod with
Chorizo and Mussels
Serves 2-3 as an entree

Preheat your oven to 450°, and while that's warming up, time to do a little prep.

First, slice the chorizo pretty thinly, maybe 2-3mm thick, and set it aside. Then, work on the vegetables. Cut the roots and the dark green tops off the leek and throw them away, slice the white and light green portion lengthwise and clean them carefully (leeks love dirt), and then thinly slice them the short way. Mince up two of the garlic cloves, and toss them together with the leeks in a bowl. And while you're at it, peel the third clove, but leave it whole and set it aside. Then start a second prep bowl of vegetables, starting with the tomatoes. Cut out the stems, slice them in half and remove the seeds, and then chop the tomatoes. They don't need to be peeled, but you could if you like. Into that same bowl, add the chopped thyme and the saffron threads. Then, slice the bread however you think will best make it kind of bruschetta-like once toasted, and brush it with two tablespoons of the olive oil and put it on a sheet pan, ready for the oven. Lastly, pat the cod fillet dry, slice it into however many portions you'll be serving, brush it with two more tablespoons of the olive oil and season it on both sides with salt and pepper. You're ready to cook!

Add the last two tablespoons of the olive oil to a big sauté pan and heat it over medium-high until it starts to shimmer. You don't want to let it smoke. Once it's hot, toss in the sliced chorizo and fry up the chorizo for a couple of minutes so that it browns a bit and turns the oil a nice red color. Then, toss in the leeks and garlic and keep cooking, stirring frequently, until the leeks soften up. Then add the tomatoes, thyme and saffron along with half a teaspoon of salt and stir to combine. Add half of the wine, bring the mixture to a boil, and remove the pan from the heat. Gently lay the cod over the top of the tomatoes and stick the whole pan in the oven for five minutes.

After five minutes, pull the pan from the oven and return it to the stovetop over medium-high. Spoon some of the leeks and tomatoes over the top of the fish, surround the fish with the mussels, add the rest of the wine and return to a boil. Then, return the pan to the oven until the cod is cooked and the mussels have opened, about 5-7 minutes.

Pull the cod from the oven, throw in the bread and turn on the broiler, so the bread can toast while you're plating the cod. Place the cod fillets in shallow bowls and top with a little more of the leek and tomato mixture. Surround the cod with the mussels and chorizo, pour any remaining broth into the bottom of the bowl, and get that bread out of the oven because it's probably about to burn. Gently rub that last garlic clove you saved over the toasted bread, sprinkle on a touch of pimentón, add a piece or two of the bread to each bowl and get that fish on the table. You're done!


Sounds delicious. Where do you usually buy your fish, Dom?

This is a sore point, Wangus. There are no independent fishmongers in Phoenix. None. Not a single storefront that specializes in fish. The only place to buy fish is the fish counters are large supermarkets. So for me, it's either Whole Foods, one of the large Asian supermarkets, or a local mini-chain called AJ's (upscale grocery(.

Well, you aren't anywhere near water of any sort, so I'm not really sure what you would be expecting in terms of fishmongers.

In defense of large chains, if you know the fish counter guy (maybe not a true monger), he/she can help. When I come in to my regular guy and try to order something not so good, he'll give me a quiet shake of the head and suggest something else.

Anon Man... see, now this is a fight I'll pick with you (in a friendly way!). "Hey, we're in the desert" is a common refrain when it comes to talk of fish in Phoenix. But as I've pointed out, Le Bernardin isn't pulling their kanpachi, uni, loupe de mer, kumamoto oysters, langoustine, etc. out of the Hudson. Nor are they even getting it off boats that are sailing in off the Atlantic. They're flying it in. Just like all of the fishmongers in Chicago or any other fishmonger that isn't situated on the ocean, or is on the ocean and offers fish from other oceans. Cost may be a factor, the convenience of distribution channels may be a factor, and fish culture or a lack thereof may be a factor, but location most certainly is not.

Certainly, those are all important factors too. But, what I would suggest is that if you rely entirely on freight for your product, then you aren't going to be able outdo a good chain. An indpenedent fishmonger usually makes his mark in the marketplace through carrying local product. Even Chicago has a large, fishable body of water nearby. And we won't even get started on Balmer or Boston. A large chain like WF will have buyers nationwide scoping out good product. "Dom's Fishmonger" isn't going to have that, and without having hand-selected local product you're going to get the crap nobody else wants from the docks. And, if small shop charm with mediocre fish is your pitch, you won't be around long.

In your defense, I know Alton Brown once went to his local fishmonger in Atlanta, another town I don't consider fish-friendly. So, maybe its a oddity of Phoenix. Here in DC, I use the fish markets for crabs or things I know get flown in from the North Atlantic regulary where freshness is especially important (like Lobster), or the occasional special order. Something Pacific or origin I'm just as likely to go to my Supermarket Fish Guy who I trust.

But, if you feel it could be done, maybe you should get people together and open one in Scottsdale or Paradise Valley.

Awesome looking recipe. Chorizo and cod is indeed a good combination. As for the fishmonger question, I thought of this little anecdote to share. Last year I went to see the fish auction at the major port in Honolulu. It was 5 am on a Saturday morning and their were literally thousands of ahi and sword fish on ice in a giant exhibition hall. We watched them take fish right from the boat and then saw people buy the fish. We asked where we could get the local fish that we were seeing, and we were told that 95% of what was being auctioned was going to New York. We did get the names of various markets and sushi restaurants in Honolulu that sell local fish, and of course they exist. But when we asked about one of the most highly regarded sushi restaurants in town, Sushi Sasabune, we were told that they only sell fish from Japan. No local fish. So, I guess I believe that if fish can go from Japan to Hawaii and Hawaii to New York, there's no good reason it couldn't go to Phoenix or Omaha or Milwaukee. I think it's more of a culture thing. I live in Tucson and refuse to eat sushi. Sushi in Tucson just doesn't make sense to me. I just am not interested. But I know that is kind of irrational and stubborn.

When I was in Baltimore I used to get fish at one of three places: Faidley's, H-Mart, or Wegman's. (For non-bmorons that's a local market vendor, a korean super-grocer-center, and a large regional chain supermarket respectively). I got to recognizing the Faidley's and H-Mart seafood counter workers fairly well, but never did so with Wegman's guys. I suppose I used to think that a large chain like that wouldn't have real "fish-guys", that they would have only the bare minimum skills to work that counter (clean, cut, wrap, etc.) Maybe I should have tried to be more familiar? Large supermarkets just seem to breed a keep-your-head-down-get-your-stuff-and-go mentality.

Now in Charlottesville after a year and a half and I still don't know where to get decent fish. Admittedly medical school means I have less time to cook than I used to while I was working a steady job. But, should I go out on a limb to start trying to trust Kroger fish workers? (I mean the place doesn't even keep animal bones for you to make stock with, people!)

Hey, in little Charlottesville we have our own fishmonger in Seafood at West Main in the Main Street Market. Pricy, but reportedly high quality.

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