A big pile of New England

January 22, 2010

Ok, so sometimes things taste WAY more delicious than they look. Hmm, can I think of an example? Finger tapping against pursed lips... Oh, yes - how about the photo at our left? I mean, this dish is AH-mazing, really one of my favorites, but it kind of looks like a third grader threw up on a piece of bread. Just to deconstruct it a little for you - we've got a thick slice of bread, topped with a piece of pan-seared cod, and then smothered with a chunky clam-chowder broth. And yes, those are pieces of bacon. Which my pescetarian brethren could leave out. In addition to the delish factor, this plate also has freez-a-bility going for it. When my husband and I make it, we make the entire clam chowder portion, but only cook two pieces of cod. Pop the leftover chowder in the freezer, and then you can just thaw it, sear up a couple more pieces of cod - and you've got a REALLY great, warming dinner in like 15 minutes.
Just a brief parenthetical word on bacon: I urge you to try the black forest bacon from the meat case at Whole Foods. Delicious.

Seared Cod and Clam Chowder on Bread, adapted from The Mist Grill: Rustic Cooking from Vermont*
Serves 4

6 pieces of bacon, chopped
1 stalk celery, diced
1/2 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
3 small red-skinned potatoes, well-scrubbed and diced (keep the skin on)
1 quart clam juice (I've also used fish stock with good success)
2 cups milk
2 small cans of chopped clams (you'll use the whole thing, so don't drain them)
4 cod fillets (whatever portion size works for you)
4 thick slices of bread

In a heavy dutch oven or soup pot, cook the diced bacon over medium heat until brown and crispy. Remove the bacon and drain on paper towels. Keep about a tablespoon or two of the bacon drippings in the pot. Cook the celery, carrot, onion, red pepper and potato until softened, about 8-10 minutes. Pour in the clam juice and simmer for 20 minutes, reducing the heat if necessary. Stir in the clams (with their juice) and milk and continue to cook for another 10 minutes. Put the bacon back in the pot, and season to taste with salt and pepper. The cookbook notes: the chowder is not meant to be thick, but rather more brothlike. Sage advice - thanks cookbook!

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Once you've stirred in the clams and milk in the broth construction above, you are about ready to start these steps. In a heavy, ovenproof pan (have I mentioned my love of cast iron recently?), melt a tablespoon or so of butter over medium-high heat. Season the cod with salt and pepper. Once the butter stops foaming, but before it burns, add the cod fillets. Sear until the first side is golden brown. Turn them over, and then pop the skillet in the oven, cooking until the fish flakes easily with a fork - about 6 minutes.

To serve, put a piece of bread in each of four bowls. Top with a cod fillet, and then ladle the chowder broth on top. Note: The bread will soak up lots of the broth and get soft. This is supposed to happen.

*Apparently, the restaurant closed five years ago, and the cookbook is out of print. Ha! (I mean, I'm sad for them and all, but it's funny-ironic a little, right?)