Recently, my husband and I invited friends to dinner while they were in Paris, but, as it turned out, this couple had only lunch slots free. So, we decided to have a weekend lunch instead. I loved the idea of a mid-day meal, so I planned a simpler menu than I would have for a dinner.
To anchor the menu, I roasted thick cod fillets. Dotted with butter and seasoned generously with salt and cayenne pepper, they needed less than 15 minutes in the oven. What gave the cod a big boost of flavor, though, was a good drizzle of pastis (an anise-scented alcohol popular in Provence and available in the States). For serving, I blanched haricots verts, julienned slices of fennel, and fresh peas together, and then mounded the vegetables on dinner plates with fish fillets placed atop. This all-in one summer main course was a hit with our guests. The plates were completely clean when I cleared them.
To round out our meal, I offered as starters cups of a light carrot and coconut soup scented with lime, and prepared a day ahead. For dessert I walked down the street to Jean-Paul Hévin’s chocolate shop to purchase a gorgeous dark chocolate gateau topped with crunchy cocoa beans. Lunchtime entertaining in Paris is so easy!
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Cod Fillets Roasted with Pernod on a Bed of Summer Vegetables
Four 5- to 6-oz cod fillets, 3/4 to 1-inch thick
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces plus extra for the baking dish
1/4 cup Pernod or Ricard (See note.)
2 tbsp crème fraîche
4 tsp chopped tarragon
2/3 pd haricots verts, trimmed
2 small fennel bulbs, stems discarded, quartered lengthwise, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch julienne strips
1 1/4 cups fresh shelled peas
1 1/2 to 2 tbsp unsalted butter
Sea salt such as fleur de sel
1. Arrange a rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 450 degrees F. Butter a shallow baking dish that will hold cod fillets comfortably in a single layer. Arrange fillets in the dish, and then divide butter evenly, and dot tops of fillets with it. Season fillets with all the salt and cayenne pepper.
2. Prepare the vegetables. Bring a large saucepan or pot of water to a boil. Add the haricots verts and fennel plus 1 tablespoon kosher salt, and cook 5 minutes. Add peas and cook 3 minutes more. Using a slotted spoon or sieve, transfer vegetables to a colander, and place under cold running water until cool. Leave the pot of water simmering on low heat on the cook top while you roast the fish.
3 Roast the fish until flesh is opaque and flakes easily, 8 to 10 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. Remove from oven but retain oven temperature.
4. Pour the Pernod into a small saucepan set over medium high heat. When bubbling, remove from heat and, averting your face, ignite Pernod with a match. Let it burn off and then pour over the fish. Spread 1/2 tablespoon of crème fraîche over top of each fillet. Return baking dish to the oven and roast 1 to 2 minutes more to heat the crème fraîche.
5. Return the vegetables to the simmering water to reheat for 1 to 2 minutes while the cod is finished in the oven.
6. Strain the vegetables and return to the pot in which they were cooked. Toss with butter and season with sea salt to taste. Arrange a bed of vegetables on four dinner plates. Top each mound of vegetables with a fillet. Spoon any drippings in the dish over the fish, and then sprinkle with tarragon. Serves 4.
Pernod and Ricard are anise-scented French spirits, which are typically mixed with water and served as a drink. They can also be used in cooking and pair well with fish.
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2019