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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Pan Seared Cod with Compound Butter Served Open-Faced

This recipe puts a new twist on the traditional fish sandwich. Served open faced on grilled shallot and garlic seasoned Texas toast, the finishing touch is a slice of dill and lemon infused compound butter.

After coming across a package of Texas toast at the grocery I was determined to find a new dish using the toast.  I had used this bread years ago when I worked in the restaurant business and we always enjoyed coming up with new ways to use this thick-sliced toast.  (It's pretty hard to find in grocery stores and I'm still amazed that I was able to find it in our small town.)

The next thing that I came across was Atlantic cod.  Not only was the fish on sale, the shapes of the fillets were just the right size to be placed on top of...the Texas Toast!!  Like an open faced fish sandwich!  (The best ideas come to me in the middle of the grocery..lol.)  Anyway, for those of you too young to have heard of the term "open-faced", it is simply a sandwich served on one slice of bread without the top piece of bread.  Therefore the "sandwich" is eaten with a knife and fork.

The next components of the dish just seemed to come together naturally.  I wanted to sear the very lightly seasoned fish, but what about a sauce?  Instead of a heavy creamy sauce I went with a compound butter flavored with lemon and dill plus just a pinch of saffron threads for a bit of color and depth in the flavor. 

(Quick Butter Lesson: Compound butter, also called maitre d'hotel butter or simply hotel butter, is made by combining unsalted butter with a variety of herbs, spices or liquids.  The butter mixture is then placed in parchment paper and rolled into a cylinder shape and chilled until the butter is firm enough to slice. The butters can be used on vegetables, fish, chicken or even grilled steak and add a delicious layer of flavor to any dish. The flavor options for compound butter are endless and the butter can even be frozen for up to 3 months for later use.  Just be sure to wrap it very tightly in plastic wrap, then place in a Ziploc bag to keep the butter fresh.)

When the chilled butter was placed on top of the still sizzling fish, the butter began to melt into the fish, then onto the bread and the flavors combined with the garlic and shallots on the toast.  This is, without a doubt, how a fish sandwich should taste and it was thoroughly enjoyed with a glass of Chardonnay.

Compound Butter - make ahead so it has time to chill
1 stick  Unsalted Butter, softened
2 tsp  Lemon Juice
1 tsp  Dried Dill
Pinch of Saffron Threads, crushed until very fine

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, mixing with a fork.  When fully blended, place the mixture onto a piece of parchment or waxed paper and gently roll into a cylinder shape.  Place the butter in the freezer for 5 minutes, then keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Butter for Toast
1 Stick Unsalted Butter, softened
1 tsp  Garlic Salt with Parsley
Pinch of Black Pepper
1 small Shallot, finely minced

Combine all 4 ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

6  4-5 oz  Cod Fillets, thick slices work best
Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
2 TB  Olive Oil
2 TB  Unsalted Butter

Place the cod fillets on a baking sheet and lightly season with salt and pepper.

In a large skillet heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering.  You will need the skillet to be very hot in order to get the proper sear.  Carefully add the fish to the pan and let them brown undisturbed for about 5 minutes.  Add the butter to the pan and it will melt around the fillets.  Use a spatula to check the bottom of the fillets for brownness and turn them over once the desired sear has been achieved.  Once turned, the fish will only need to cook for about 3 - 4 minutes longer.   When the fish feels firm to the touch and has begun to brown on the bottom, it is ready to serve.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place 6 slices of Texas toast on a foil-lined baking sheet and generously spread each slice with the garlic-shallot butter.  Bake the toast in the oven for about 5 minutes, turn the oven setting to low-broil and bake until the edges are nicely browned.  Remove from oven and set aside.

Place a piece of the browned Texas toast on each plate, top with a piece of cod and quickly add a slice of the compound butter to the top of the fish.  Serve with steamed asparagus.  Enjoy!

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