December 22: Lunchbreak - Roasted Cod and Baccala with Yellow Pepper Puree
The Florentine
151 W. Adams Street
Chicago, IL 60603
(312) 660-8866

To read more about the restaurant:

Roasted Cod and Baccala with Yellow Pepper Puree

6 pieces of skin-on or skinless 6 ounce cod
salt for seasoning

For baccala:
1 whole head garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, more as needed
2 Idaho or other starchy potatoes, peeled
1 pound boned dried salt cod, soaked according to package directions, or pre-soaked salt cod
2 cups whole milk, or as needed
2 large eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place garlic on a square of foil, rub with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil to coat it, and wrap securely in foil. Roast until cloves are soft, about 30 minutes. Allow to cool, remove cloves from their skins, then mash cloves with a fork. While garlic roasts, prepare potatoes and cod: Place potatoes in a saucepan, cover with water, and boil until tender, about 20 minutes. Place cod in a saucepan, and barely cover with milk. Place over medium-low heat and simmer until cod flakes easily, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove cod with a slotted spoon, transferring it to a plate to cool; leave milk at a very low simmer. Drain potatoes; Return potatoes to pot and mash them. Immediately and quickly break eggs into hot potatoes and stir vigorously until fully. Shred cooled cod as finely as possible, and add to potato mixture. Adjust milk, oil, garlic and salt and pepper as desired. Add parsley and mix well.

Yellow Pepper Puree

4 yellow bell peppers
3 medium Yukon Gold
potatoes, peeled, left whole
1 red onion
1 medium carrot
1 stalk celery
1 bay leaf
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cups water

Finely chop the carrot, onion, and celery into a tiny dice. Sauté slowly in olive oil until the vegetables begin to turn golden. Wash the bell peppers, remove the seeds and any white veins on the inside. Cut into quarters and place in the pot to cook with the whole potatoes. Add the water, to cover. Cook for 45 minutes and then purée in a blender or with a hand blender. If it seems to thick, add more water.

To cook fish:
Pre-heat your oven to 500. Heat a large skillet with enough vegetable oil just to cover the pan. Pat fish dry, and season fish. When pan is just starting to smoke and the oil seems to be moving around fast, place fish skin side down. Do not over crowd the pan as the fish will not sear. You may need to cook the fish in batches. As the fish cooks you will see it to start to brown on the bottom. When the bottom has browned slightly, about 3 minutes, flip the fish over with a spatula, and cook for one minute on flesh side, then flip back onto skin side, and put in oven. Cook for about six minutes, until the fish is firm and cooked thru. To make the plate, put a small circle of yellow pepper sauce in the middle of the plate and spread around. Place a dollop of baccala on top of that. Place fish on top of that and serve.

Cooking Tips:

1) Always buy the freshest fish possible. 2) Store it properly in your refrigerator at a cold temperature. 3) Only use salt for most fish not black pepper (I prefer kosher salt). I only use pepper for large steak fish like tuna or swordfish. You want to highlight the natural salinity of the fish not mask it with pepper, which can be overpowering to delicate fish. 4) Always use a very hot pan when searing fish 5) Do not worry about overcooking fish. A good way to test is by sticking a cake tester or paring knife into the fish. If the fish gives a bit and the knife does not go thru, it needs more time. If the knife, or cake tester goes thru quickly, remove and serve immediately.