Our Monday dinner menu often includes a fish dish or something vegetarian. So Fine Cooking’s “Make It Tonight” Series came through again with this Butter-Basted Spiced Cod with Polenta by Ronne Day.
Baking cod in melted butter adds a richness to the fish that nicely balances the heat from the harissa, a yummy North African paste made of ground dried chile peppers, garlic, olive oil, and spices. In the past, I’ve made harissa from scratch but no longer had any on hand, so to save a little time, I picked up a jarred version at the supermarket when buying the fresh cod.
Don’t nix making this recipe because you think you’ll never use harissa again—which comes in mild or spicy. Other uses for the condiment include stirring into couscous, stews, soups and pastas. You’ll find it packaged in cans, tubes and jars at well-stocked grocery stores and specialty markets.
A 2-pound piece of cod at 32 ounces was a bit more than the recipe called for, but I cut it down into 5 sections, giving me some leftovers for lunch the next day. As far as the other ingredients, I kept those amounts the same. Next time however, I may cut back the butter to 4 tablespoons as opposed to 6, and increase the amount of harissa.
Overall, it’s a very tasty dish and seems luxurious when the butter sauce is spooned over the cod and polenta. Fresh chopped cilantro or parsley add a welcome pop of green.
Butter-Basted Spiced Cod with Polenta
- 1-1/2 tsp. crushed whole coriander seeds or ground coriander
- 2 medium lemons, 1 finely grated to yield 1/2 tsp. zest and squeezed for 2 Tbs. juice, the other cut into wedges
- Kosher salt
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 3 oz. (6 Tbs.) unsalted butter
- 4 6-oz. pieces cod loin
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 Tbs. harissa paste
- 2 tsp. coarsely chopped cilantro or parsley
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F.
- Heat a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the coriander and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add 3 cups of water, the lemon zest, and 1 tsp. salt; turn the heat up to medium high.
- Whisk in the cornmeal and cook, stirring often, until thick and creamy, about 20 minutes. (If the polenta gets too thick, loosen with a little hot water.)
- Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan. Season the fish lightly with salt and pepper and arrange in a 9×13 baking dish with space between each piece.
- Remove the butter from the heat, stir in the harissa and lemon juice, and pour it over the fish.
- Bake, basting every 5 minutes or so, until cooked through (the fish will flake easily), about 15 minutes. If necessary, cover with foil to keep warm.
- Divide the polenta among 4 shallow bowls or plates. Top with the fish and spoon the butter over the fish.
- Top with the cilantro or parsley and serve with the lemon wedges.