Friday, June 6, 2008

Butter Fried Cod with Agrio-Dulce or "The Terroir of Food"

Terroir, loosely translated, "a sense of place".

I believe with food there is a "taste of place". Maybe it's tied to a specific location, maybe it's tied to a time of year or time of day. Is there anyplace better than a ball park to have a hot dog? When does a gin and tonic taste better than on a summer's day watching a setting sun?

One of my favorite white wines is Viognier, but only at the winery. At the winery it's lush, full of ripe fruit with a nose of wildflowers. Put it on a truck, transport it cross-country and it turns dull, with an almost metallic flavor.

Years ago, while vacationing in Maine with friends, SSSal and I bought lobsters from an oceanside pound. It was little more than a small barn with a pump keeping a constant flow of seawater turning over in tanks filled with hundreds of lobsters. That night we boiled them over an open flame under starlight. Boiled lobster, red potatoes and Carling Black Label Beer, no lobster since has come close to tasting better.

One of the reasons I cook is to try and recapture those moments of taste, to recreate the "terroir" of the food. Another reason is I try to "travel" around the world using my dining room table; I try and guess what the "terroir" would be like someplace I've never been.

Which brings me to today's recipe. I've never been to the Algarve or coastal Spain; I imagine both places to have food centered around seafood with peppers, onions and tomatoes playing a large role. This is a recipe from a cohort ("cohortress"?, it's the internet, I can make up words if I want), Kitchen Goddess. It combines all the ingredients I would expect to find on a visit to Portugal. I did brown the fish (my mistake) and added some crushed tomatoes to my sauce, but the result is still a fresh, subtly flavored meal that I would recommend to anyone. Now if could only get a decent bottle of Viognier....

Butter Fried Cod with Agrio-Dulce
by Kitchen Goddess

Agrio-Dulce Peppers

1/4 cup olive oil
2 onions, peeled and finely sliced
3 large red peppers, sliced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
2 bay leaves
1 sprig fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 tsp. sugar
2 TBSP water
1 small can (14 oz.) crushed tomatoes (this is a Crabby addition)

4 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 TBSP Sherry Vinegar
Salt & Pepper to taste

2 TBSP Chopped Basil

Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a medium pan (using medium heat), when hot add the chopped onions, fry gently for 25 - 30 minutes. Stir occasionally until softened but not colored.

After 30 minutes add peppers, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, paprika, sugar, wand water and cook for an additional 15 - 20 minutes, until the peppers soften and the onions begin to caramelize. During the last 10 minutes add the can of crushed tomatoes. (Crabby Note: I added the crushed tomatoes because my reduction was not generating the same amount of broth pictured in Kitchen Goddess' version. I also liked the idea of an added tomato flavor).

While the peppers are cooking, whisk together the extra virgin oil and sherry vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. When the peppers are finished add to the pan and toss to distribute.

Butter Fried Cod
by Kitchen Goddess

4 Cod Fillets, skin on
1 TBSP Olive Oil
2 TBSP Butter

Over medium heat, heat oil in a frying pan large enough to hold the fish fillets without crowding.

Add the butter to the hot oil and allow it to brown slightly.

Add the fish, skin side down and cook for 3 - 5 minutes.

Turn the fish and cook for an additional 3 - 5 minutes, cook gently to avoid coloring the fish.

Serve peppers and broth in a bowl. Place Butter Fried Cod atop the peppers and then garnish with chopped basil.

That's it. Simple, delicate. Serve with a nice Spanish White, say a 2005 Esperanza Rueda Verdejo ($12), (unless of course you can get your hands on some good Viognier).

Until next time, remember, you can do it, you can cook. Adio. Adeus. Ate logo. Tchau.


Anonymous said...

Terroir=place? Not in my book. But then again, I only read wine books. Gout de Terroir is commonly referred to in Burgundy, France, as the Taste of the Earth. It is discernable by Burgundy experts, I am not one, to taste the difference of the soil of each town in Burgundy. When matching wine and meals, I like to maintain "ethnic consistancy" or just a phancy phrase for if you cook Tuscan, drink Tuscan.

My Viognier story has a similar sad ending. While tasting in the Rhone Valley, one night I went to a famous restaurant and asked the sommelier to teach me about Viognier, He told me that Viognier has to be young to be enjoyed. I didnt like the one he picked. The next night, I went to another fancy restaurant and asked that sommelier about Viognier, He told me that Viognier doesn't show its best til it is over 10 years old. I didn't like that one either. But I do love Lobsters in Maine!


Anonymous said...

Looks gorgeous CC, great photography too.

Thanks for being a recipe tester, it's much appreciated :)