Braised Cod with Tomatoes and Leeks

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BRAISED COD with TOMATOES and LEEKS - Once the veggies are chopped, this one-pan fish dish cooks in 15 minutes and is loaded with flavor. Elegant enough for company yet simple enough for busy weeknights, it's also a delicious way to increase your intake of heart-healthy fish.

Once the veggies are chopped, this one-pan fish dish cooks in 15 minutes and is brimming with flavor. It’s elegant enough for company yet simple enough for busy weeknights, and a variety of fish can be used in place of the cod. If you’re trying to increase your intake of heart-healthy fish, this recipe is a fine place to start! 

 

 

 

When I first made the following dinner on a mid-summer Sunday, my family raved. When I said I’d make it again soon, they chuckled and said they wouldn’t hold their breath.

As I mentioned in this recent post for Teriyaki Salmon & Vegetables (another speedy, one-pan meal, by the way), when your mom/wife is in the business of creating recipes, the weekly lineup tends to include more new “experiments” than old favorites!

In the salmon case, I said I accepted the challenge.

This time, I not only welcomed the good-natured challenge, I followed through in a way they were sure to notice!

As such, every Sunday since, I’ve purchased fresh fish on my weekly grocery run and served this easy meal.

My family has been thrilled with the repetition, and I feel a small sense of satisfaction having met their subtle challenge head on.😉

BRAISED COD with TOMATOES and LEEKS - Once the veggies are chopped, this one-pan fish dish cooks in 15 minutes and is loaded with flavor. Elegant enough for company yet simple enough for busy weeknights, it's also a delicious way to increase your intake of heart-healthy fish.

Conveniently, I’ve been showered with fresh cherry tomatoes from our garden-and thanks to the warm start to fall I am still picking! Not to worry, grocery store cherry and grape tomatoes are typically much sweeter than the larger tomato varieties and work well, too.

Leeks provide a lovely alternative to onions. They’re milder-almost sweet-and I overlook them too often.  I’ve included extra information on leeks, including on how to clean and cook with them, under the recipe card.

Of course, adding this dish to the weekly repertoire has allowed for especially rigorous testing. Because not everyone has wine on hand and some simply prefer not to open a bottle for a mere half cup, I dedicated several nights to vetting out worthy alternatives. My thinking was that the results could then be applied to other recipes calling for similar amounts of wine.

Notably, I tried several brands of the mini bottle 4-packs. At $7.99 for the pack (each bottle contains just over 6 ounces), Sutter Homes Pinot Grigio was my personal favorite among the brands available to us. Nobody blinked an eye when I used Woodbridge Chardonnay, but I noticed a more pervasive underlying flavor (I think it was oak), which could be because I’m not a regular drinker of Chardonnay.

The best non-wine alternative was a half cup of chicken broth plus 2 teaspoons of white wine vinegar. (Helpful hint: As with the wine, you can purchase a 4-pack of 8-ounce cartons if you don’t want to open a whole can of broth for such a small amount. Then use the leftover to replace a portion of the water when cooking rice later in the week, or freeze for future use.)  I started with 1 teaspoon of vinegar, and it still tasted like broth. Not in a bad way, mind you. Once the second teaspoon was added, however, the end result more closely resembled the ever-so-mild tang afforded by the wine. Lemon juice would likely be a worthy alternative to the vinegar, or you could simply serve the finished dish with lemon wedges for squeezing. (Perhaps I’ll try that next Sunday!)

In the end, the inherent flexibility offers one more reason to appreciate this easy-but-healthy meal. We often enjoy this dish with a side of orzo, which I toss with pesto. The pesto flavor complements the dish beautifully, although the pan juices alone will add lovely flavor to plain orzo, rice, noodles or even a baked potato. (Also, for those who need it, I recommend DeLallo’s gluten-free orzo.)

Similarly, a piece of crunchy bread complements nicely. (I always toast and then spread the bread with this Healthier Spreadable Butter.)

And for those who have been conditioned, like I was, to think that fish doesn’t hold well for leftovers, think again. Leftovers will keep well for three days, and I adore having them for lunch as the flavors meld and improve over time. I break up any remaining fish and mix everything together like a hearty stew. On the occasion that I have some remaining tomato-leek mixture but no fish, I use that to flavor leftover orzo or rice another night.

BRAISED COD with TOMATOES and LEEKS - Once the veggies are chopped, this one-pan fish dish cooks in 15 minutes and is loaded with flavor. Elegant enough for company yet simple enough for busy weeknights, it's also a delicious way to increase your intake of heart-healthy fish.

The veggie mixture is sautéd first, and then the fish is nestled into the pan where it quickly cooks while being infused with incredible flavor.

BRAISED COD with TOMATOES and LEEKS - Once the veggies are chopped, this one-pan fish dish cooks in 15 minutes and is loaded with flavor. Elegant enough for company yet simple enough for busy weeknights, it's also a delicious way to increase your intake of heart-healthy fish.

The tender, protein-rich fish gives this meal staying power, while the rustic sauce makes it feel a little like comfort food.

 

Types of fish to use: 

  • Cod, a mild tasting, flaky white fish, is a delightful choice for this recipe. It also tends to be wild-caught and on the less expensive side.
  • Other good choices include halibut, tilapia, red snapper, monkfish and sea bass.

 

BRAISED COD with TOMATOES and LEEKS - Once the veggies are chopped, this one-pan fish dish cooks in 15 minutes and is loaded with flavor. Elegant enough for company yet simple enough for busy weeknights, it's also a delicious way to increase your intake of heart-healthy fish.

Easy but elegant and a delicious way to increase your fish intake, I took inspiration for this recipe from an America’s Test Kitchen article I clipped from the newspaper last winter.

Braised Cod with Tomatoes and Leeks
Yield: 4 servings
Once the veggies are chopped, this one-pan fish dish cooks in 15 minutes and is loaded with flavor. Easy enough for busy weeknights but elegant enough for company!
Ingredients:
  • 4 skinless cod fillets (about 5 to 6 ounces each), 1-1½ inches thick*
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound leeks (or 2 medium), white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, washed and thinly sliced
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 12 ounces (1 pint) cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • ½ cup dry white wine**
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Optional: lemon wedges for serving, a sprinkle of fresh herbs like basil, parsley and/or thyme
Instructions:
  1. Pat the cod dry with paper towels, if needed, and lightly season both sides of the fillets with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and sauté until softened and some of the edges are golden brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes, ½ teaspoon salt and a few good turns of the pepper mill (I use about ¼ teaspoon here), and the wine; bring to a simmer.
  3. Nestle the fish fillets into skillet and spoon some of the vegetable mixture over top. Cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. (Helpful hint: if your skillet doesn’t have a lid, carefully crimp a piece of foil over top. When using a standard roll of foil, you’ll have to fold 2 pieces together to completely cover a 12-inch pan.) Cook until the fish flakes apart when gently prodded with paring knife, 5 to 10 minutes, depending on thickness (internal temperature taken with a quick read thermometer should register 140℉; thicker pieces will take longer to cook).
  4. Carefully transfer the fillets to a platter or individual dinner plates. Stir the butter into vegetables, adjust for seasoning if needed, and sprinkle lightly with optional fresh herbs. If you’d like the tomatoes to further soften, you may cover the skillet and cook for another minute or two. Spoon the vegetables and sauce over the fish and serve. (Helpful hint: if you’re not quite ready to eat, return the fish to the skillet and cover to keep warm for a few minutes. If the wait becomes longer than a few minutes and the dish needs to be warmed, simply return the pan to low heat for a few minutes – just long enough to warm without further cooking the fish.
Tips & Substitutions:

*A mild tasting, flaky white fish, cod is a delightful choice for this recipe. (It also tends to be wild-caught and on the less expensive side.) Other good choices include halibut, tilapia, red snapper, monkfish and sea bass.

**If you aren’t a regular wine drinker or simply prefer not to open a bottle for the half cup called for in this recipe, consider purchasing a 4-pack of mini bottles, which contain 6 ounces each, to have on hand. (Just make sure you like the taste of whatever you use!) Optionally, you may use chicken broth instead of wine. In this case, I also add 2 teaspoons of white wine vinegar (could try lemon juice) to mimic the touch of acidity in the wine.

**For an inexpensive mini-bottle option, I like Sutter Homes Pinot Grigio. Chardonnay would work well for those who enjoy that flavor.

The Fountain Avenue Kitchen https://fountainavenuekitchen.com/

A BRIEF LEEK PRIMER:

Leeks are an often overlooked vegetable, but their mild, almost sweet onion flavor can add something special to a wide variety of dishes – I especially like how they complement fish, chicken, potatoes and eggs.

A member of the allium family (along with onions, garlic, shallots, scallions and chives), leeks are a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B6, iron and magnesium, and a very goodsource of folate and vitamins A, C and K.

The edible parts of the leek are the white and light green parts (above the root end). Thanks to its tough texture, the dark green portion is typically discarded, but it can be saved and added to stock for extra flavor.

What are some other ways to enjoy leeks? For a more delicate onion flavor in a soup or casserole, try replacing the onions with leeks. Or sauté and add to a quiche or frittata…or a chicken pot pie. And think of all the ways cauliflower is used as a low-carb alternative to leek-loving potatoes. Adding leeks to a mashed cauliflower, for instance, would be lovely.

Leeks can also be eaten raw. To enjoy their crispness and mild flavor, toss chopped leeks into salads or try as garnish where you might otherwise use scallions.

CLEANING LEEKS:

Sometimes dirt can make its way deep into the layers of a leek, in which case a soak in water will help to remove it. Start by slicing off the root end and the tough, dark green section. Then slice the remaining light green and white section in half lengthwise, so you have two long halves. Next, soak the halves in a bowl of cold water for 10 minutes or so, and then rinse under cold water. The extended soak allows the water to work its way into the leek’s many layers and helps to expel the dirt.

That said, sometimes you get lucky and end up with leeks that are pretty darn clean. In this case a quick rinse, simply pulling back the ends of the first few layers as you do so, should do the job!

 

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