Here at the opening of the year, many people find the motivation to eat more healthily. A season of glut behind them, they feel that a new calendar can help them find the new discipline that they need to follow through on those long-held health goals. But of course, they face one big problem: So many unhealthy foods are just delicious, and their siren call has scuttled many a diet. But there is no reason why eating healthily can’t be fulfilling and delicious!
Today we bring you a recipe from Epicurious for slow-roasted cod with roasted peppers and capers. When the ingredient in a recipe that is the worst for you is olive oil, it’s basically a freebie. And as a plus, it’s super delicious, easy to make, and—with our temperature tools and tips—cooks up perfectly.
How to cook cod correctly
Fish can be tricky to cook: no one wants to eat undercooked fish, but it can go from done to overdone in a very short time. The reason for this is twofold: structure and geometry. By structure, I mean the internal cellular structure. Harold McGee says that…
“Fish connective tissue is weak because its collagen contains less structure-reinforcing amino acids than beef collagen does, and because the muscle tissue also serves as an energy store that’s repeatedly built up and broken down, whereas in land animals it is progressively reinforced with age. Meat collagen is tough and must be cooked for some time near the boil to dissolve into gelatin, but in most fish, it dissolves at 120 or 130°F/50–55°C, at which point the muscle layers separate into distinct flakes.”Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking, pg 191.
Another reason it’s so easy to overcook fish is that “Fish myosin and its fellow fiber proteins are more sensitive to heat than their land-animal counterparts” (McGee, 209). Most fish will become dry from protein shrinkage and coagulation after 140°F (60°C).
Plus, cod has only about 0.5% fat in its meat. That leanness demands proper care be given to the fish to make it right.
To make sure your cod comes out flaky and tender, use a ChefAlarm® and set the high alarm so that you can pull it from the oven at 140°F (60°C). At 130°F (54°C) the sheets of muscle will start to separate and the fish will become flaky, at 140°F (60°C) the fish will be firm. You can decide on the texture you like within that range and use it every time with repeatable accuracy using your ChefAlarm. But if you pull it at a higher temperature, you will severely risk drying it out.
The second problem, geometry, comes into play with a large piece of fish like we are using in this recipe. Fish filets are unevenly shaped, usually thick in the center and tapered towards the edges, with the tail portion much thinner than the main body portion. This creates an opportunity for uneven cooking. This isn’t so much a problem with a complex, difficult solution as it is a fact to be aware of. Folding thin parts of the fish underneath other parts can create a uniform thickness that will cook evenly but is something that must be attended to.
Some people don’t like fish because of its, well, “fishy” flavor. That fishiness can be off-putting, and people fear cooking fish because they don’t want their whole house to smell of it. But science has our backs there. The fishy aroma is caused by bacteria breaking down a compound, TMAO, that the fish use to balance saltwater. When it breaks down into TMA it smells…a lot. But there is hope! If your fish isn’t the very freshest, a simple rinse in tap water can remove most of the offending TMA before cooking begins, thus curing the fish of its smell. A douse with acid, such as lemon juice, or vinegar, also changes the chemical nature of the TMA itself, preventing it from going air-borne and smelling up your kitchen. Simple solutions, but very effective.
For this week’s cook, we have a delicious slow roasted cod recipe with roasted peppers and capers. Use a TimeStick® to keep track of the peppers as you roast them, they need to be well charred on the skins but not burnt through!
Slow baked cod recipe with roasted peppers and capers
Based on Slow-Roasted Cod with Bell Peppers and Capers from Epicurious.com
- 6 medium red, orange, and/or yellow bell peppers, or a mix
- 6 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
- 4 garlic cloves, smashed
- 2 Tbsp sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 (1 1/2-lb.) skinless cod fillet (or substitute halibut)
- 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/4 C coarsely chopped parsley
- 2 Tbsp capers, drained
- 1 red chili, for garnish
- Crusty bread (for serving)
- Preheat your broiler to high heat and, if necessary, move your rack into position.
- Halve the peppers long ways. Remove the stems, pith, and seeds.
- Coat the peppers with 3 Tbsp of the olive oil. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper, and place them face down on a lined, rimmed cookie sheet.
- Broil the peppers until the skins are well charred. Set an initial time on your TimeStick for 10 minutes.
- When the alarms sounds, check the peppers. You want them to have lots of char all over, but they needn’t be completely black. If not charred yet, reset the timer for a couple minutes and continue broiling.
- Place the peppers in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow them to sit in their own steam on the countertop for 10 minutes while the skins soften.
- Meanwhile, reduce the heat of your oven to 300°F (149°C) and move your rack to the lower third of the oven.
- When the peppers have rested, peel their skins off. They should come off with little difficulty. It’s ok if some skin remains on the peppers.
- Tear the peppers into ½” wide strips and place in the bottom of an oven-safe casserole or baking dish along with the juices that have accumulated in their resting bowl.
- Add the garlic, vinegar, pepper flakes, and, if needed, some salt. Toss to combine.
- Nestle the cod in among the peppers with the thin tail section tucked underneath the midsection of the fillet.
- Drizzle on 2 Tbsp of the olive oil and season the fillet with salt and pepper.
- Probe the thickest part of the fish with a Pro-Series Needle Probe and connect it to your ChefAlarm.
- Set the high alarm for 140°F and place the dish in the oven.
- While the fish cooks, combine the thinly sliced onions, parsley, capers and the rest of the oil in a bowl. Season with salt.
- When the alarm sounds (after about 25-30 minutes), remove the dish from the oven and verify the temperature with your Thermapen®.
- Allow the fish to rest, then top with the caper and onion mixture.
- Garnish with thinly sliced red chili and serve with crusty bread for mopping up the delicious liquid in the bottom of the pan.
Cooking fish doesn’t need to be scary, it just needs to be done right, and the ChefAlarm—paired with a Thermapen®—is the best tool for the job. So stay on the healthy-eating wagon for at least one more week with this delicious dish, cooked to flaky perfection.
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