France, as everyone knows, takes their gastronomy seriously, and that’s most evident around the holidays. Take the Christmas Eve dinner — called “le reveillon” and often enjoyed after midnight mass! — as an example. Traditions abound.
The meal often starts with an aperitif as well as amuse-gueules (or single-bite appetizers), which traditionally include the famous French dish of foie gras over toast. Escargot is also often served, as well as oysters. But when it comes time for the main dish, what’s served often depends on the family, as just about any meat — from goose to ham — is offered.
Fish too though can take a prominent place on the table. After all, this sweet crispy cod recipe is a particular favorite of the Berard family, who is now retired, but who for many years ran our Cooking Passport to Provence cooking vacation in France. As with many French dishes, it also features local and seasonal ingredients.
Sweet Crispy Cod
Prep time: 120 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Cook method: Bake
For main dish
- 4 120-grams (4 1/4 oz) skinned cod fillets
- 4 filo pastry leaves
- 50 grams (1 3/4 oz) olive oil
- 250 grams (just over 8 3/4 oz) marrows (1 slice equal to the length of fish, and 3 mm thick)
- 2 leeks with whites chopped, and green stems cut into strips
- 80 grams (2/3 cups) chopped shallots
- 4 chopped garlic cloves
- 1/2 liter chicken stock
Vegetables for presentation
- 200 grams (about 2 cups) cardoon (artichoke thistle)
- 200 grams celery sticks cut into sticks (1 x 5 cm) and cooked in salted water with some lemon and flour
- Approximately 20 chestnuts (cooked in chicken stock)
- 400 grams (just over 3/4 lb) conger eel or small fish
- 1 onion cut into quarters
- 100 grams (2 1/2 oz) sliced carrots
- 100 grams (2 1/2 oz) celery (trimmings)
- 2 leek stalks (trimmings)
- 50 grams (1 3/4 oz) parsley
- 1 glass fortified wine
- 1/2 liter Provencal red wine
- 1/2 liter water
- 1/4 liter veal stock (ready made)
- 2 sticks wild fennel
- 3 anisee stars
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 bunch thyme
- 1 bunch parsley
1. Start by preparing the vegetables. Fry the 80 grams of chopped chalets, 2 leeks, 4 chopped garlic cloves, and marrow in about 50 grams of olive oil. Season all of this with salt and pepper. Moisten with the chicken stock, and allow all of this to simmer for a few minutes.
2. Fry up the cardoon and celery with the olive oil. Again, salt and pepper to season. Set to the side once done cooking.
3. Prepare the cod. To do so, butter the film pastry leaves with a brush, then added the chopped and well-drained fish. Season this too with salt and pepper.
4. In the cod, make five incisions for the marrow strips, and then cover the fish with the remaining leeks.
5. Close up the filo pastry pouches. You can tie them with a strip of leek for an added effect.
6. Place the filo pastry pouches upside down to make sure that they’ll stay closed during cooking. Then cook them in a hot oven, 200°C (to just under 400° F), for about 10 minutes.
7. To make the fish stock, cook the vegetables in the fish stock ingredient list and cook them in olive oil. Add in the sliced eel or fish, and finish cooking odor about 10 minutes. Moisten this mixture with fortified wine and red wine. Allow the alcohol to evaporate, and then add the wine, herbs, and veal stock.
8. Simmer for one hour.
9. Once done, strain the sauce through a piece of muslin, and then adjust the seasoning to taste, using salt, pepper, and herbs.
10. To serve this dish, place the vegetables in the center of the plate, and then top it with the crispy cod pouch. Surround the dish with chestnuts, and then coat with a bit of sauce.
Bon appétit! To learn more recipes for the holiday season, stay tuned to our social media sites, or visit France on one of our French culinary tours!
By Liz Hall
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