Roasted Cod on a Potato Gratin

It’s not often that a restaurant dish is both so delicious and so simple that I can’t wait to try it in my own kitchen. Last month in Paris I had such an experience at a new bistro called Le Casse Noix. (The restaurant is this month’s featured item on the “Out and About” section of my website.) The main course that caught my eye and palate was roasted cod served atop a gratin of potatoes, an unlikely combination that worked beautifully.

The chef had fashioned a delectable mixture of potatoes and bits of ham seasoned with piment d’Espelette (a dried pepper powder similar to cayenne), and then transferred them to individual baking dishes. He sprinkled the servings with cheese, and finally added a thick, snowy white cod fillet to each.

After making this entrée several times, I returned to the restaurant and told the chef about my culinary attempts. He could not have been more charming, replying that my “home” version was close to the original.

You could serve this main course along with a salad of baby spinach or arugula tossed in a lemon and olive oil dressing. Add a crusty baguette and voilà, you’re almost in Paris!

Roasted Cod on a Potato Gratin

1 1/4 pounds small red skin or Yukon Gold potatoes
Butter for greasing the baking pan
2 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme, divided
Kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, divided
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated Gruyère
3 thick strips bacon (2 1/2 ounces) cut into 1/2 inch-wide pieces
4 cod filets about 6 ounces each and 1-inch thick
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock, preferably reduced sodium
Fresh thyme sprigs for garnish, optional

1. Arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Butter 4 individual baking dishes or crème brûlée dishes (about 5 1/2 inches in diameter).

2. Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1/4-inch thick slices. Cook in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until tender, but not mushy, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain potatoes in a colander.

3. Divide the potatoes evenly and arrange them in a single layer in the baking dishes. Combine 1/2 teaspoon of the thyme, 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of the cayenne pepper in a small bowl and season the potatoes with this mixture.

4. Sauté the bacon in a medium, heavy skillet set over medium heat, stirring, until crisp and browned, about 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Divide the bacon and cheese evenly and sprinkle over the potatoes. (Potatoes can be prepared 4 hours ahead; cover with plastic wrap and leave at cool room temperature.)

5. Mix the remaining thyme and cayenne plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt in a small bowl. Season the fish on both sides with this mixture. Top each dish with a fillet. Combine the stock and wine, and pour over the fish and the potatoes in each dish.

6. Roast until the fish is opaque and flakes easily and cheese has melted and potatoes are hot and bubbling, 12 to 15 minutes or more depending on the thickness of the fish. Watch carefully. There will be some liquid in the baking dishes that will be delicious with the fish and potatoes. If desired, garnish each serving, with a thyme sprig. Serves 4.

© Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2011

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