Cod with Morels and Garden Peas (Surf n’ Earth)
If I could only eat two categories of foods, they would be fish and vegetables. Cod is a mellow tasting fish, ready to be prepared with other ingredients and it really shines when fried up with only butter cooked up hot and fast. Clarified butter has the milk solids removed allowing you to cook at heat high without burning. Morels are one of the few wild mushrooms available in spring and their earthy flavor is a perfect match with the sweet garden pea. The fresh garden pea by the way has been my all time favorite vegetable form the garden since childhood. The key skill for cooking this hot skillet recipe successfully is to have all the ingredients ready ahead of time and to really pay attention and have a sense for when the heat needs to be adjusted.
Surf n’ Earth
1 lb cod
1 cup shelled fresh peas
1 cup shelled fava beans
1-2 handfuls of morel mushrooms
1 large shallot minced
4 garlic cloves whole
1-2 oz chicken stock
2 sprigs fresh tarragon
1 sprig fresh mint
To prepare the fava beans & morels: Fava beans need to be shelled twice, once removing them from the pods (easy) and then removed from the second shell (not quite as easy). It’s a good idea to blanch them once removed from the pod to make this process smoother. Bring a small pot of water to a boil and add fava beans, cooking for only 20 seconds before straining. Now add the beans to cold water to blanch. The inner bean should now easily squirt out of its outside shell. After blanching, fava beans will be the greenest green you’ve ever seen. If using fresh morels it is best to slice off the very end of the stem and then slice them in half lengthwise, this way it’s easy to expose the inside for cleaning. If using dried morels, add to a pot of water, bring to a boil, remove from heat, cover and let sit for 20 minutes. Set the morels on a towel to dry. It’s not necessary to cut up dried morels but feel free to if you want smaller pieces.
To make the vegetable paste: Separate into two relatively equal piles each of the peas, fava beans and minced shallot. Add 1 tbsp olive oil in a skillet and add four cloves of garlic. Bring heat to med and cook for three minutes once they begin to sizzle, turning a few times to brown evenly.
Add half of minced shallot, sprinkle with salt and continue to cook two minutes more.
Add half of fresh fava beans and peas and cook for three minutes more before removing from heat. To make the vegetable paste add all ingredients to a blender or use a pestle and mortar. Remove the leaves from and mince the tarragon and mint, add to the rest and blend or mash. Add chicken stock as necessary to gain a good pesto-like texture and set aside.
To make the fish: Add 1-2 Tbsps butter to same skillet and bring heat to med-high. Cut fish into serving portions and sprinkle with salt. When butter begins to sizzle add fish top side down. Cook for about five minutes on the first side. Turn down heat if the cooking gets too wild. Check one filet to make sure it has a little brown and then flip when they are ready. It’s easy to tell when cod is cooked as it begins to flake open.
Next nestle morels and remaining shallot around fish portions in skillet, sprinkle with a little salt and cook for a few minutes shaking pan once or twice before adding remaining fava beans and peas. Cook for one minute more before plating the fish and placing vegetables around fish portions. Top each fish fillet with a dollop of the vegetable puree. Makes 2-4 portions.
What if you don’t have fresh morels, peas, and fava beans? Frozen peas and fava or lima beans will work instead of fresh peas and favas. You can substitute button mushrooms for the morels.