We had an offsite outing last weekend, and I was happy that the client chose the humble Pacific codfish because it is one of the best eating fish that swims, and it is a healthy stock of fish, unlike their Atlantic cousins that continue to struggle in the Gulf of Maine.
White polenta is another favorite in the way we slow-simmer it and add a lot of cheese. I had to come up with some color to make the plate visually appealing, so I added roasted roma tomatoes, pea tendrils and some flowers.
The staff ended up making the leftovers for two days in a row for lunch, and it took me right back to my days of working in Boston and fishing for winter flounder and cod around the islands of outer Boston Harbor. The following recipe serves six.
Ingredients — Creamy White Polenta:
(You can find white polenta in specialty-food stores. I like it, as it is less grainy than regular polenta. Just like all Polentas, it blooms up a bit, so I would say 12 to 16 ounces would be plenty and give you some leftovers.)
12 ounces white polenta
2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1 TBSP chopped garlic & shallots
2-3 pints chicken base/stock
1 pint heavy cream
1 wheel herbed Boursin cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup Mascarpone cheese
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped chives
* Take a stock pot and heat up the olive oil, along with the chopped garlic and shallots. Let simmer on low heat for 5 minutes.
* Turn up the heat and add the polenta, start with two pints of chicken base/stock (you can always add more) and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to a low, gentle simmer and cover the pot. Let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
* Take a look to see how the water has been absorbed. Now you can add the heavy cream and all three cheeses. Cover and let simmer again for 15 to 20 minutes. You will also want to test-taste the liquid now and decide to add some salt and pepper and even some extra chicken base if you prefer.
* You are almost done at this point. You are looking for the same consistently of loose mashed potatoes. You may have to simmer with the cover removed for the liquid to evaporate quicker. Once you have the right consistency and flavor, hold on the side, covered.
* Just before service, you can stir in the fresh chives.
Ingredients — Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette
(I like to make this easy by using a basic dressing and simply blending in some preserved lemons. You could also use fresh orange, lemon, lime or grapefruit juice.)
1/2 bottle Champagne Vinaigrette
1/4 cup preserved lemons, chopped less if they are really salty
1 TBSP sugar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
* In a high-powered blender, start with the Champagne Vinaigrette and the preserved lemons (We make our own here in the hotel, and I add sugar instead of straight salt for a better-flavored preserved lemon).
* Blend at high speed for two minutes and taste. Adjust seasoning with sugar, salt and pepper or even some sweet orange juice or lemonade.
* Turn on high again, drizzle in the olive oil and taste again. Make this in advance to keep in your fridge.
Ingredients — Ritz Cod Fillets
6 6- to 7-ounce boneless cod fillets
1 large egg
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup AP flour
2-3 TBSP of your favorite seasoning salt mix
2 sleeves Ritz crackers, ground up fine
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup Canola oil
30 pieces blanched green asparagus
1 cup oven-roasted roma tomatoes (Chop, olive oil, salt and pepper, roast at 200 degrees, 30 minutes)
4 ounces sweet butter
* Mix the egg, milk and seasoning salt — and mix well. Add the flour and whip until you have a thick batter. Pour enough of the egg batter to provide an even coat of batter on the fish. You only need a little, as the Ritz/Panko mix will adhere really well to the batter. If you want to make this super healthy, use olive oil to coat the fish instead of the egg batter.
* Bread each piece of cod with the Ritz/Panko mix and set aside.
* Take a sauté pan and heat to medium. Add the Canola oil and then brown off the fish on both sides. I prefer to brown the fish quickly & then finish roasting it in a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes until the internal temp hits 145.
* Spread your dried tomatoes on a pan and also heat up in the oven.
* While the fish is roasting in the oven, heat up the butter in a sauté pan and heat up your asparagus. Season with salt and pepper.
* Mix the chives in your white polenta and spoon onto each plate followed by the asparagus and tomatoes, top with the cod, drizzle some Vinaigrette on top, garnish and serve.
About the Chef
Steve Black attended Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island and began his hotel career began at the Sheraton Boston Hotel & Towers in 1984.
In 1990, Chef Black traveled abroad to Strasbourg, France where he had the opportunity to work with several 5-Star Michelin Chefs.
Returning to the U.S. in 1992, Chef Black moved to San Diego and joined the culinary teams at the La Costa Resort & Spa and at the Hyatt La Jolla Aventine. In 1993, he became the Executive Chef at the Sheraton Hotel & Marina on Harbor Island.
During his off time, Steve fishes the offshore waters from San Clemente island down to Ensenada and everywhere in between from his 25’ Boston Whaler Revenge.