ghostly fish in black lentil night sky
(braised black cod on Beluga lentils with fresh thyme)
what you need:
4 beautiful cod fillets or other white fish
kosher salt (as needed)
freshly ground black pepper (as needed)
unsalted butter (as needed)
1 shallot, minced
fresh Italian parsley, minced (as needed)
4 lemon peels
½ cup dry white wine
quality fish stock (as needed) *
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon chopped onion
½ cup diced leeks
¼ cup diced parsnips
¾ cup chopped mushrooms
¼ cup dry white wine
½ cup fish stock* (or water)
fresh lemon juice (as needed)
mushroom and leek purée
The purée can be made in advance, stored in the refrigerator and reheated and added to the lentils. However, if you want to forego the purée, skip to the “lentil” section of the recipe (below).
- Sweat Aromatics. In a saucepan over high heat, add butter. Once hot, add garlic. When garlic is fragrant, add onions and leeks. Cook until translucent. Add parsnips and mushrooms. Cook until well-browned and the vegetables are beginning to stick to the bottom of the pan.
- Deglaze. Add the wine and reduce au sec (almost dry), scraping the fond from the bottom of the pan. Use a spatula to remove the vegetables from the pan. Place the cooked vegetables in the bowl of a food processor.
- Purée. Add 1/2 cup fish stock (or water) to the vegetables and purée until smooth. Set aside and keep warm to add to the lentils when they are done (see below).
- Lentils. Melt a tablespoon of butter in a saucepan over medium heat (if you made the purée, you can use the same pan). One melted, add the lentils and toss to coat the lentils in the butter. The lentils will be shiny.
- Add Liquid. Add the fish stock and the bouquet garni. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer until lentils are tender (but not mushy) about 45 minutes. Remove and discard bouquet garni.
- Combine. If you made the purée, add it to the lentils in the saucepan.
- Adjust Consistency. The lentils should be creamy. If too thick, add more stock or water to dilute it (NOTE: If you want to bump up the flavor, add more stock. If you want to tone down the flavor or keep it where it is at, add only water). If the lentils taste fishy, add a little fresh lemon juice.
- Adjust Seasoning. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Turn off the heat. Cover with a lid to keep warm while you cook fish.
- Braise Fish. Sprinkle fish fillets with salt and pepper. Butter an ovenproof pan or dish. Scatter parsley and shallots on the bottom of the pan over the butter (not more than 2 tablespoons of minced shallots for 4 fillets). Place fish fillets on top of shallots and parsley. Add wine to the pan. Add enough fish stock to cover the fillets by ⅔. Place the pan on the stove over a medium flame. Bring to a quick boil.
- Finish in the Oven. One you reach a boil, turn off burner and cover the pan with a lid or tightly with aluminum foil. Place the pan in an oven preheated to 425 Fahrenheit degrees. Cook for about 10 minutes. Cook until “just done.” Fish is done when it is opaque and the fillets begin to look flaky rather than solid and translucent. Carefully remove the pan from oven. Use a fish spatula to remove the fish fillets from pan. Place fillets on a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
- Fumet (Reduced Braising Liquid). On the stove over a medium flame, reduce the braising liquid to ¼.
- Strain (optional). Pour the fumet (reduced braising liquid) through a strainer to remove the shallots and parsley.
- Monter au beurre (optional). Remove the pan from the heat. Adjust sauce with fresh lemon juice. For a thicker, richer sauce, add a tablespoon of cold butter to liquid, swirling it in the liquid by moving the pan in a circular fashion.
- Adjust Seasoning. Whether you strain or not, or add butter or not, adjust the seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.
- Plate. Cut the fillets in shapes that resemble ghosts (rounding the tops for the heads and trimming the bottoms to look flowing). Place lentils on plate to create your night scene. Add a ghost fillet to each plate. Pour some sauce over each ghost. Add two black lentils to each ghost for the ghost eyes. Garnish with fresh thyme.