We started cooking a lot more fish once we discovered that we had great local sources for a variety of fresh fish. Basic pan-seared salmon, with any number of sauces and accompaniments, is a go-to dish when we are short on time and creativity and energy. When we want to venture beyond "simple"—that is, when we want something “restaurant-worthy”—a fish dish we often opt for is Roast Cod with Pistachio Sauce and Chive Oil.
We came across a recipe for “Roasted Cod with Steamer Clams and Pistachio Sauce” in Food & Wine Magazine’s 2002 Cookbook and modified it a bit since we didn’t always (almost never?) have fresh clams around when we wanted to prepare this dish. Here’s a link to the original recipe for those who want to try it with steamer clams: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/roasted-cod-with-steamer-clams-and-pistachio-sauce-anita-lo.
We decided to try this recipe because we wanted to expand our culinary horizons with something completely different--and we just happened to have cod and pistachios and chives and bottled clam juice (which we used liberally to substitute for any step that involved clams). We initially sort of scratched our heads with the recipe, thinking that the dish did not sound particularly appealing, but we were so glad to be proven wrong. Speaking from personal experience with a lot of new recipe disappointments, I have to say I really enjoy those rare instances when the surprise is pleasant!
Some notes about this dish after having attempted various modifications:
1) Pistachio Sauce
The sauce is a nice, salty, briny, nutty accompaniment to the cod. Make sure you do grind the roasted pistachios very fine (as pictured below). If you are like me and want to skip the additional step of steaming clams, you can simply use some bottled clam juice for the pistachio sauce without any loss in flavor. In the picture above, you can see the pistachio sauce peeking out a bit from under the cod. At first we were a bit skeptical about having the pistachio-clam sauce as well as the chive oil (seriously, did we need two sauces?), but the two complement each other nicely. The earthy nuttiness of the sauce gets balanced by the fresh herbiness of the oil.
The original recipe called for fingerling potatoes, but we now use medium-sized peeled Yukon Gold potatoes sliced about 1/3 inch thick. For presentation, we fan the potatoes around one side of the cod. We skip the recipe step of simmering the boiled potatoes with the clams and the reserved clam liquid since we do not use clams in the dish. On our first attempt, we did simmer the boiled potatoes with a small amount of bottled clam juice and butter (thus modifying the recipe a bit), but we have since then opted for purity (or laziness). It’s actually quite nice to have the buttery taste, the yellow color, and flaky texture of just-boiled Yukon Gold potatoes dipped into the chive oil that surrounds them.
3) Chive Oil
The oil is our favorite component of this dish! It turned out once that we did not have chives after all, and so we substituted some chopped green onions and parsley. The result was passable but a bit bitter and not nearly as flavorful as using chives, so make sure you do have chives before you prepare this dish for the first time. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve (pictured below) and then take a spatula to scrape down every last bit of liquid. Don’t forget to salt the oil since the salt minimizes the bitterness you might initially taste. Do dip both cod and potatoes in the chive oil!
In the picture at the top of the post, you can see the pistachio sauce forming a bed for the roast cod (which should be pan-roasted to a nice golden brown), the potatoes fanning around one side of the fish, and the chive oil surrounding the perimeter of the entire dish. Will baked some fresh (yes, from scratch, with chilled dough rolled over and over again!) home-made croissants, so that provided a special accompaniment to a dish that was already restaurant-worthy.