The other day we were looking for some good fall themed meals to make. As our readers and friends can attest, we make a lot of Italian food. But on this particular day we were looking for something to expand our repertoire and broaden our horizons, and this recipe from Saveur looked sufficiently interesting and out there enough to do the trick.
Aside from enjoying it alongside a bratwurst at the local biergarten, we haven't had much experience with sauerkraut, and we've never had it with fish before. As such our interest was sufficiently piqued. Add on to that this is topped with a shallot cream sauce and we thought that this was anti-run-of-the-mill enough that we might see it on a fancy restaurant menu, but tantalizing enough to consider ordering. So we dove in, ordered a pint of prepared sauerkraut with our groceries, and gave it a shot. The results were well worth it!
Making the Dish
In addition to the sauerkraut, there was one other ingredient that we do not normally have on hand - star anise. These beautiful looking little herbs are used like bay leaves: left in during cooking to impart flavor and then removed before eating. They provide a nice, licorice type flavor. We're in the market for other recipes that use this great ingredient, so please let us know about it in the comments if you know of any!
The dish comes together in three separate steps. The first is the sauerkraut, the second is the cream sauce, and lastly is the fish.
|Bacon. What dish isn't better with bacon?|
To prepare the sauerkraut, start by chopping up three strips of bacon into a small dice and cooking in a small skillet over medium heat with a touch of olive oil. Cook this until the fat renders and the bacon becomes somewhat crispy.
|Crispy, delicious bacon.|
Pour off some of the fat so that you have about 1 to 2 tbsp remaining in the skillet, and then sauté two diced shallots, a teaspoon of fresh chopped thyme, a dash of cumin, the star anise pods, and a bay leaf, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are soft. This should take about 5 - 6 minutes.
|Star anise sits atop crisped bacon, shallots, and thyme|
Into this blend of seasonings, add in the sauerkraut, a half cup of dry riesling, and a third cup of water. Season with a dash of salt and pepper and stir to combine. Bring it to a boil, cover, and then reduce the heat to low, stirring occasionally, for about 25 minutes. This long cooking will give the flavors time to meld and for the sauerkraut to get deliciously soft. Once this is done cooking, you can throw out the bay leaf and the star anise.
|Stir the sauerkraut mixture together and cook until delicious.|
Next, season your cod with salt and pepper and then dredge in flour, patting off the excess. In a non-stick pan, heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil until it's almost smoking. Gently place your fish into the pan and sear the side for about three minutes. Carefully flip the cod filet and sear the other side for about three to four minutes, until the fish is firm and flaky.
|Searing the cod|
Remove from the pan and let rest on a separate plate. You can keep it warm in the oven or covered with foil.
|In the cod pan, shallots mingle with wine and melted butter.|
In the same pan, so that you get the flavor of the fish in the sauce, melt a tablespoon of butter. Dice up another shallot and throw these into the melted butter, cooking them until they're soft. Once soft and slightly caramelized, add in 3/4 cup of the riesling and cook until it is nearly evaporated. Into this, add the cream and cook over low heat until the sauce thickens. Season with salt and pepper.
|Seasoning the creamy shallot sauce with pepper|
To bring it all together, plate the sauerkraut, place the cod filet on top, and drizzle with the shallot cream sauce.
|Pepper wants a taste|
As we said, this is definitely not something in our normal line up, but we're glad we tried it. Each component has a very sophisticated flavor profile which all work together quite well. The star anise brings a sort of sweetness to the otherwise sour sauerkraut, which allows for the fish to be enjoyed without being overpowered. The shallot cream sauce ends up being somewhat sweet as well thanks to the riesling, and brings out the flavor of the cod nicely.
This won't be the last time we go off the beaten path and try something distinctively new, and this was a delicious place to start.
Again, if you know other ways to utilize star anise, please let us know! We've got a whole jar of pods waiting to be used :)
Click through for the full ingredients list
Cod with Sauerkraut and Shallot Cream Sauce
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 30 min
Total time: 40 min
2 tbsp, extra virgin olive oil
3 strips, bacon
3 shallots, diced
1 tsp, freshly chopped thyme
2 pods, star anise
1 bay leaf
1/2 lb raw sauerkraut, drained and rinsed
1 1/4 cups dry riesling
2 cod filets, seasoned and dredged in flour
2 tbsp, butter
1/4 cup, heavy cream