COD WITH SAFFRON RISOTTO

WITH THE EXCEPTION OF WHOLE FISH, I PAN COOK FISH, SKIN-SIDE DOWN, THEN COVER AND UNCOVER, BASTING WITH BUTTER TILL IT'S DONE.  McCALL'S ON HILLHURST IS WHERE I BUY MY FISH, WHICH IS CUT IN A THIRD TO HALF-POUND PORTIONS WITH THE SKIN LEFT ON.  THE SKIN PROTECTS THE FLESH, HOLDS IT IN PLACE AND GETS CRISP, ADDING TASTE AND TEXTURE TO THE FISH.   WHAT CHANGES IS WHAT GOES UNDER THE FISH;  ORZO WITH FRESH TOMATOES, BUTTERY MASHED POTATOES, WHITE BEANS, LONG GRAIN RICE OR, IN THIS CASE, RISOTTO.  THIS PARTICULAR  RISOTTO IS MADE WITH SAFFRON, LEEKS, FENNEL AND PRESERVED LEMON.  DON'T BE PUT OFF  BY THE MENTION OF RISOTTO.  NO, YOU DON'T HAVE TO STAND AT THE STOVE STIRRING FOR 40 MINUTES TILL IT'S DONE.  ADD A FEW CUPS OF BROTH IN THE BEGINNING.  TURN OFF THE HEAT AND COVER.  WHEN YOU START COOKING THE FISH, JUST ADD MORE LIQUID TO THE RISOTTO AND IT WILL BE READY IN TIME TO FORM AN EDIBLE CUSHION OF YELLOW AND GREEN FOR FISH.  

 4 PORTIONS OF FISH (COD, STRIPED BASS, SALMON, ETC.), PREFERABLY SKIN SIDE ON
 2 SPRIGS OF FRESH THYME
 1 LEEK
 1 FENNEL BULB
 HALF A PRESERVED LEMON OR THE ZEST FROM A WHOLE FRESH LEMON
 1 cup ARBORIO RICE
 4 cups DILUTED CHICKEN STOCK OR VEGETABLE STOCK
 1 cup DRY WHITE WINE
 GENEROUS PINCH OF SAFFRON THREADS
 MORTAR AND PESTLE
 FENNEL FRONDS, CHIVES AND/OR DILL

1

BRING STOCK TO A LOW SIMMER IN A SAUCEPAN.

TRIM LEEK LEAVING THE WHITE PORTION. SLICE LENGTHWISE IN HALF AND RINSE OFF ANY DIRT UNDER RUNNING WATER. CHOP IN A 1/2-INCH DICE.

TRIM FENNEL BULB, SLICE LENGTHWISE IN HALF. REMOVE THE TOUGH WHITE WEDGE AT THE BASE WITH A SMALL KNIFE. SLICE CROSSWISE INTO 1/4-INCH HALF MOONS.

GRIND SAFFRON AND A PINCH OF COARSE SALT WITH A MORTAR AND PESTLE.

REMOVE AND DISCARD PULP FROM THE PRESERVED LEMON AND JULIENNE THE RIND. OR, REMOVE THE ZEST FROM A WHOLE LEMON.

IN A SAUCEPAN OR FRYING PAN WITH HIGH SIDES, MELT 2 TBSPS OF BUTTER WITH 2 TBSPS OF OLIVE OIL.

ADD THE LEEKS AND COOK ON A LOW FLAME STIRRING OFTEN UNTIL THE LEEKS ARE SOFT BUT NOT BURNED.

ADD THE RICE, RAISE THE HEAT TO MEDIUM, AND STIR FOR A MINUTE OR TWO. SEASON WITH SALT AND WHITE PEPPER.

POUR IN THE WHITE WINE AND BRING TO A BOIL. CONTINUE STIRRING TILL THE WINE IS ABSORBED.

ADD 2 CUPS OF THE BOILING STOCK INTO THE MORTAR WITH THE SAFFRON, THEN POUR INTO THE RICE. STIR FOR FIVE MINUTES, THEN TURN OFF THE HEAT, COVER AND LET SIT TILL YOU'RE READY TO COOK THE FISH.

HEAT A LARGE SKILLET FOR 1 MINUTE OVER HIGH HEAT. DRY THE FISH THOROUGHLY WITH PAPER TOWELS. SEASON ON THE SKIN SIDE WITH SALT AND PEPPER.

WHEN THE PAN IS VERY HOT POUR IN 3 TBSPS OF VEGETABLE OIL, PREFERABLY GRAPE SEED OIL. WAIT TILL THE OIL IS HOT, THEN CAREFULLY LAY IN THE FISH FILLETS, SKIN SIDE DOWN. SHAKE THE PAN FOR A MINUTE OR TWO TILL DOESN'T STICK AND MOVES EASILY AROUND THE PAN. REDUCE THE HEAT TO MEDIUM LOW.

MEANWHILE, BRING THE STOCK BACK TO A BOIL. ADD A CUP TO THE RISOTTO OVER A MEDIUM FLAME. ADD THE SLICED FENNEL AND PRESERVED LEMON. KEEP ADDING MORE STOCK AND STIR INTERMITTENTLY WHILE YOU FINISH THE FISH.

ADD A 3 TBSPS OF BUTTER AND A COUPLE OF THYME SPRIGS TO THE PAN WITH THE FISH. BASTE, THEN COVER. COOK FOR A MINUTE. UNCOVER. BASTE UNTIL THE FISH IS DONE. TEST IT BY INSERTING A SHARP KNIFE IN THE CENTER AND TOUCHING IT TO YOUR BOTTOM LIP. IF IT'S WARM TO THE TOUCH, IT'S DONE.

WHEN THE RISOTTO IS CREAMY BUT AL DENTE, STIR IN 2 TBSPS OF BUTTER. SPOON INTO FOUR PORTIONS ON INDIVIDUAL PLATES. SET THE FISH ON TOP, SKIN SIDE UP. SCATTER WITH CHOPPED HERBS.

SERVES 4

NOTE: THERE'S NO SKIN ON THE FISH IN THE PICTURE BECAUSE I USED COD AND THE SKIN PEELED OFF.

Ingredients

 4 PORTIONS OF FISH (COD, STRIPED BASS, SALMON, ETC.), PREFERABLY SKIN SIDE ON
 2 SPRIGS OF FRESH THYME
 1 LEEK
 1 FENNEL BULB
 HALF A PRESERVED LEMON OR THE ZEST FROM A WHOLE FRESH LEMON
 1 cup ARBORIO RICE
 4 cups DILUTED CHICKEN STOCK OR VEGETABLE STOCK
 1 cup DRY WHITE WINE
 GENEROUS PINCH OF SAFFRON THREADS
 MORTAR AND PESTLE
 FENNEL FRONDS, CHIVES AND/OR DILL

Directions

1

BRING STOCK TO A LOW SIMMER IN A SAUCEPAN.

TRIM LEEK LEAVING THE WHITE PORTION. SLICE LENGTHWISE IN HALF AND RINSE OFF ANY DIRT UNDER RUNNING WATER. CHOP IN A 1/2-INCH DICE.

TRIM FENNEL BULB, SLICE LENGTHWISE IN HALF. REMOVE THE TOUGH WHITE WEDGE AT THE BASE WITH A SMALL KNIFE. SLICE CROSSWISE INTO 1/4-INCH HALF MOONS.

GRIND SAFFRON AND A PINCH OF COARSE SALT WITH A MORTAR AND PESTLE.

REMOVE AND DISCARD PULP FROM THE PRESERVED LEMON AND JULIENNE THE RIND. OR, REMOVE THE ZEST FROM A WHOLE LEMON.

IN A SAUCEPAN OR FRYING PAN WITH HIGH SIDES, MELT 2 TBSPS OF BUTTER WITH 2 TBSPS OF OLIVE OIL.

ADD THE LEEKS AND COOK ON A LOW FLAME STIRRING OFTEN UNTIL THE LEEKS ARE SOFT BUT NOT BURNED.

ADD THE RICE, RAISE THE HEAT TO MEDIUM, AND STIR FOR A MINUTE OR TWO. SEASON WITH SALT AND WHITE PEPPER.

POUR IN THE WHITE WINE AND BRING TO A BOIL. CONTINUE STIRRING TILL THE WINE IS ABSORBED.

ADD 2 CUPS OF THE BOILING STOCK INTO THE MORTAR WITH THE SAFFRON, THEN POUR INTO THE RICE. STIR FOR FIVE MINUTES, THEN TURN OFF THE HEAT, COVER AND LET SIT TILL YOU'RE READY TO COOK THE FISH.

HEAT A LARGE SKILLET FOR 1 MINUTE OVER HIGH HEAT. DRY THE FISH THOROUGHLY WITH PAPER TOWELS. SEASON ON THE SKIN SIDE WITH SALT AND PEPPER.

WHEN THE PAN IS VERY HOT POUR IN 3 TBSPS OF VEGETABLE OIL, PREFERABLY GRAPE SEED OIL. WAIT TILL THE OIL IS HOT, THEN CAREFULLY LAY IN THE FISH FILLETS, SKIN SIDE DOWN. SHAKE THE PAN FOR A MINUTE OR TWO TILL DOESN'T STICK AND MOVES EASILY AROUND THE PAN. REDUCE THE HEAT TO MEDIUM LOW.

MEANWHILE, BRING THE STOCK BACK TO A BOIL. ADD A CUP TO THE RISOTTO OVER A MEDIUM FLAME. ADD THE SLICED FENNEL AND PRESERVED LEMON. KEEP ADDING MORE STOCK AND STIR INTERMITTENTLY WHILE YOU FINISH THE FISH.

ADD A 3 TBSPS OF BUTTER AND A COUPLE OF THYME SPRIGS TO THE PAN WITH THE FISH. BASTE, THEN COVER. COOK FOR A MINUTE. UNCOVER. BASTE UNTIL THE FISH IS DONE. TEST IT BY INSERTING A SHARP KNIFE IN THE CENTER AND TOUCHING IT TO YOUR BOTTOM LIP. IF IT'S WARM TO THE TOUCH, IT'S DONE.

WHEN THE RISOTTO IS CREAMY BUT AL DENTE, STIR IN 2 TBSPS OF BUTTER. SPOON INTO FOUR PORTIONS ON INDIVIDUAL PLATES. SET THE FISH ON TOP, SKIN SIDE UP. SCATTER WITH CHOPPED HERBS.

SERVES 4

NOTE: THERE'S NO SKIN ON THE FISH IN THE PICTURE BECAUSE I USED COD AND THE SKIN PEELED OFF.

COD WITH SAFFRON RISOTTO
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