Enjoy the subtle contrast of butter, hazelnuts and lemon sauce with each bite of tender cod. Substitute any white fish, such as sole, flounder with great results. This makes a great party appetizer or a main course, but the smaller the pieces of fish, the more closely you need to watch them to keep it from drying out. If there’s a long, tapering piece of fish, fold the thin part under so that each portion is uniformly thick. Otherwise the fish will bake unevenly. If you’re short on time in the evening, prepare everything earlier in the day and refrigerate it. Pop the fish in the oven 20 – 25 minutes before you want to serve it and set the table or enjoy a glass of wine with your guests. No one will believe that you weren’t in the kitchen for hours when they taste this one.
Cod with Hazelnuts and Lemon Sauce
Serves 8, adapted from “The Frugal Gourmet Cooks with Wine”
3 pounds (1.3 kilos) true cod or any fresh white fish such as sole or flounder
8 tablespoons (120 ml) melted butter, plus some to coat baking dishes
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup (120 ml) hazelnuts, chopped
Lemon juice, freshly squeezed
8 individual baking dishes or ramekins
2 tablespoons (30 ml) butter
2 tablespoons (30 ml) sweet rice flour
1 cup (240 ml) clam juice or fish stock
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup (60 ml) dry white wine
1 tablespoon (15 ml) juice, freshly squeezed
Heat the oven to 350° F (176° C). Butter 8 individual baking dishes. Divide the fish into 8 portions and place in the baking dishes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Spread 1 tablespoon of melted butter over each piece of fish, followed by a tablespoon of chopped hazelnuts and a sprinkle of lemon juice. Put the dishes on a baking tray or cookie sheet and bake for 20 – 25 minutes, or until the fish is tender and just starts to flake. Don’t let it dry out.
Meanwhile, make the sauce. Melt the butter in a small pan and whisk in the rice flour until smooth. Add the clam juice and continue whisking until the sauce thickens. Stir in the salt, pepper and white wine, whisking till smooth. Set aside until time to serve. Just before serving, stir in the lemon juice and pour some of the sauce over each portion of fish.
The fish and sauce can be prepped ahead of time and held in the fridge until time to bake. If you do this, let the sauce cool, then press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface so that a skin doesn’t form, then refrigerate it until the fish is in the oven. Remove the plastic and reheat it over low heat, stirring constantly. Add the lemon juice just before serving.