Because its skin is thin and almost without scales, cod is perfect for infusing with herbs. Just make a small slit with a knife and insert some rosemary or thyme, and when the cod is cooked, you will find a wonderfully herb-flavored, flaky fish under crisp skin.
Scandinavians love the turnip-like rutabaga (whose American name is derived from the Swedish word for rutabaga). One of the few vegetables to last through the winter, it was long the food of the poor, cherished as an important source of vitamins more than for its taste. When I was growing up, our old neighbor, the ascetic and ever-worried Mrs. Krigel, lived on rutabaga and boiled water for weeks at a time. “It is pure, good food,” she insisted. “It will make you strong.” Every time I visited her, she would insist that I eat a slice of raw rutabaga. She was sure that the sweet taste would take my mind off the chocolate and chewing gum she suspected me of devouring. Of course it didn’t, and it was not until recently that I realized how wonderful this cheap, slightly sweet vegetable can be. Infused with the flavor of vanilla, it makes the most interesting contrast to lightly salted fresh cod.—Andreas Viestad
Four 1/2-pound cod fillets, skin on
2 pounds rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
1 vanilla bean
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Fine sea salt
4 very small sprigs fresh rosemary
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1. Soak the fish in ice water for 15 to 20 minutes, or place it in a colander in the sink under cold running water for 15 to 20 minutes. Pat dry with paper towels.
2. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
3. Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the rutabaga and cook for 25 to 30 minutes, until soft. Drain well. Return the rutabaga to the pan to dry completely over low heat, 1 to 2 minutes. Purée the rutabaga in a food processor or pass it through a food mill, and return it to the pan.
4. Cut the vanilla bean lengthwise in half. Scrape out the seeds and add to the mashed rutabaga. (Discard the bean or add it to a canister of sugar to make aromatic vanilla sugar.) Gently stir the butter into the mashed rutabaga until it melts. Season with a little salt. Keep warm.
5. Meanwhile, make a small incision through the skin of each cod fillet and gently insert a rosemary sprig. Season well with salt and pepper and rub with the olive oil. Place the fish in a roasting pan. Roast for about 15 minutes, until the fish flakes easily. Place a large scoop of mashed rutabaga on each plate. Top with the fish and serve.
Recipe © 2003 Andreas Viestad. All rights reserved.