For Cod’s Sake, Pay Attention In Class.

I apologise for the dumb-assed headline. Had I listened to my own advice when I was younger, I probably would have the wit to write a better one. There is no doubt that an education is a gift that, like youth, is often wasted on the young (with apologies to Oscar Wilde). There is bad news for any of us who would have been more interested in what was going on out the window than on the blackboard. Lifetime learning is now the order of the day. So, when I attended a cookery demonstration by one of Ireland’s most accomplished chefs and all round nice guy, Derry Clarke, I should have had my brain engaged.

Derry was educating a group of 40 or so enthusiastic home cooks in the Miele Experience Centre in Dublin’s Citywest. We in Ireland are used to being schooled in vast classes, so the numbers were nothing new to any of us. One of the tips we were given was a way to get a great result when cooking white, firm-fleshed fish like cod or hake. I have allowed a couple of months go by without putting theory into practice in my own kitchen. That was a mistake.

What a pathetic looking ingredients shot. Trust me, it’s all it takes for great cod.

My recipe (Derry’s instructions, my blagging) for simple fried cod (or hake or most other mid-firm fish) goes as follows: Get some good quality salt without any additives. I use Malden as it’s the best I know at a price that doesn’t bring water (salty water at that) to my eyes. Get some fresh cod, ideally a nice thick fillet piece that will cook up nicely as did this piece.

Side note on fresh fish: Always try to get the freshest fish you can. Buy from a fishmonger shop that doesn’t smell of old fish. If you can smell fish, it’s going off. Trust your local fishmonger, they depend on your repeat custom and that’s an incentive to keep things as they should be. As a general rule, buy from a busy shop. That way, the fresh fish are being turned over and your chances of freshness are increased. Also, buy with your eyes. If it looks nice and firm, it’s probably fresh. Where the opportunity presents itself, check the eyes of the fish. If they are opaque, don’t buy. Also, don’t be afraid to ask about the freshness. A good fishmonger will welcome the questions. 

Not a lot of preparation needed. Don’t be shy with the salt.

Trim the fish so it will look nice on the plate. Sprinkle a generous amount of salt onto the flesh side of the fish. Give the skin side a salting too. Leave it for an hour. The salt will extract some of the moisture from the fish and this will tighten up the flesh somewhat. It will also help the skin to crisp nicely when fried.

I added the lemon into the shot for a bit fo contrast and colour.

Just before frying, clean the fish of salt and pat dry with paper towels. Heat a frying pan to medium hot and heat the oven to 160ºC / 320ºF. Add a small amount of cooking oil to the frying pan then add the fish, skin side down. Leave it untouched for about five minutes. You will see a crusty edge forming and the fish will start to become opaque. This opaqueness will have moved about half way up the fillet.

Just added to the pan. Keep the temperature medium.

Gently, turn the fillet over and move the pan from the stovetop to the oven. Leave it there for five minutes.

Just after coming out of the oven. The fish is cooked to perfection.

Serve it on warmed plates with a slice of lemon and some vegetables. I did serve it with a big pile of fluffy potatoes but thought better of putting them into the shot.

Lesson learned. This cod will get you to the top of the class.

Once you have cooked fish this way, you will never go back to “just throwing it on the pan.” The real lesson I learned here is that I should have paid more attention in class. The story of my life….

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Latest comments
  • That looks delicious, but shouldn’t we have it on Friday 😉

  • Conor that looks amazing. I’ve handled thousands and thousands of pounds of cod in the first half of my life, most of it fresh out of the hold. When we did eat cod over the usual haddock it was a quick fry, nothing special. If I was coming home to something that looked like yours, I think I’d be eating a lot more cod today. Bravo!

  • Hi Conor, this is more or less how I prepare cod loin. The only difference is that I will use a thermometer to make sure it is cooked to the right core temperature (pull from the oven at 45 to end up around 50), and sometimes replace the skin with a tasty breadcrumb mixture (think lemon zest, parsley, capers, anchovies…). Great photos as usual — good idea with the lemon. I have some posts with photos that have no color whatsoever and they look bad.

  • I would say the Cod might be wanting to pay attention in *School* 🙂

  • Ah, and now the student has become the teacher. Great lesson Conor and I tried to pay attention. I learned to generously salt my cod filet, I’ve done it that way. A must try. Thanks teach!

  • Cod Dish looks delicious, Jimmys Dinner organised for tomorrow!!!

  • Oh, my Cod, that looks amazing!

    hey, I loved your post title, in fact, I arrived here already with a big smile on my face…

    very tricky for me to get my hands on excellent quality cod, but… I still paid attention to your class…

  • One of my favorite meals — a hunk of cod, a pile of mash, and some salad. I’ll try salting and finishing in the oven the next time I make it.

  • Good Cod, who knew it was so simple? Not that I can get cod here, but the lesson will, I’m sure, apply to coral trout, snapper, red emperor or any of our local firm white fish.

  • This just looks perfect 👌

  • Have cooked fish all my life without being wise as to salting and waiting: worth the lesson and shall try . . .

  • Good looking piece of fish there hombre 👌

  • Beautiful fish.

  • Love that salt sprinkling pic. Good produce, simply cooked, with attention to detail. Big thumbs-up.

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