Sunday, June 24, 2007

Clam Chowder: Sautéed Cod with Cod Cakes and Parsley Oil

If you had told me ten years ago that I would not only EAT a cod cake, but that I would MAKE them and LOVE them, I'd have told you you were on crack. Seriously, like Whitney and Bobby levels of consumption. The thought of a cod cake to me was reminiscent of Yorkshire pudding, mashed turnips, or something equally as beige, British, boiled and boring. But dude. These are awesome. You have NO IDEA how happy I am that this recipe provided enough for the extra codcake fixins that are sitting in my freezer right now. My neighbor's 10-year old son threatened to break into my house in the middle of the night to steal them, that's how much HE loved it. We decided that I would host Cod Cake Camp one day this week, during which time he and I would just make all the rest of the cod cakes, cover them in the leftover clam sauce and stuff ourselves until we couldn't move.

Alright... so you can tell I loved loved loved this dish. Let's dive in to the prep -- here's the mise en place for the Cod Cakes:

I cut 6 small portions of the cod to use as one of the elements of the dish, but set aside the trimmings for the cod cakes. I put the trimmings in a small pot with wine, sliced shallots, crushed garlic cloves, thyme and peppercorns. Okay, I need to interject something here: the recipe calls for 12 peppercorns, and I just wanna know why. Seriously, 12? I'm wondering if Keller tried this with 5, then 8, then 10 peppercorns and decided it just wasn't enough... and then went with 15 and was all "whoa, what the hell!?!?!" and cut it back to 12. Does he get all Gordon Ramsay on the staff if they use 13 peppercorns by accident and send the plate back shouting, "you BLEEPing donkey, I BLEEPing wanted 12 BLEEPing peppercorns and that tastes like BLEEP so you must've used 14 BLEEPing peppercorns!! What the BLEEP is wrong with you, you BLEEPing BLEEP?!?!?! BLEEP!!!!!!" I'm just wondering, so yeah, if you've ever worked at TFL and can let me know, that'd be great. I've been thinking about this for nearly two days, as I'm sure you can tell.

Okay, back to the Cod Cake prep. Here's what I steamed the cod trimmings in:

When it was cooked (about 5 minutes), I drained the fish on a paper towel and tossed the cooking liquid. At the same time I did the fish, I peeled and boiled the Yukon Gold potatoes. I put both into a mixing bowl, broke them up with a fork, and mashed them all together. Then, one-by-one, I added salt, butter, olive oil and minced garlic.

Once everything was mixed and smushy (you don't learn official cooking terminology like that at the CIA, I bet), I laid out some plastic wrap and made two logs. I wrapped them and put them in the freezer overnight:

With the cod cakes prepped, I spent today getting everything else ready. Next up? Clam-a-palooza:

The recipe calls for 6 clams, but I bought extra just in case some of them didn't open, or were substandard. So yeah, I made 20 clams. You know... to have backups and stuff. I cooked them in white wine, shallots, garlic, and a few bay leaves. After they'd opened and I stored the clams in the fridge, I strained the cooking liquid multiple times because it looked a little funky. I reduced it over medium heat for about 25 minutes, then added heavy cream, and reduced that over low heat for about an hour:

This sauce smelled soooooo good. I took the sauce off the heat and let it sit on the stove top while I made the chowder. My favorite part of making the chowder? PEELING the CELERY. Thomas Keller, you may have your peppercorn peculiarities, but the fact that you request the home cook peel the celery for the chowder makes me happier than you'll ever know. Perhaps I need to be on meds, but that's clearly a discussion for another time and place. See, here's the deal: I'm not a fan of celery. It falls into the rhubarb and frisée category of texture issues. I typically don't like food that doubles as dental floss. It's just not my thing. So, when I saw that I was going to have to peel the celery, I first thought, "oh fer cryin' out loud, this is going to take nine million years and it's going to piss me off, and this is so stupid and I am SO NOT DOING THIS THOMAS KELLER YOU CRAZY CELERY-PEELING PERSON out there in STUPID CALIFORNIA with all the time in the WORLD to devote to your PEELED CELERY, GAH" and then it hit me... it's genius. It is the perfect thing to do to celery.

Oh, whoops. That's not peeled celery. That's what's left of the once-full container of dark chocolate-covered espresso beans I had as a snack this afternoon (can you tell?) -- WHOOOOOOOO-HOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Here's the peeled celery:

It's so beautiful and amazing, and Thomas Keller, you are my new best friend. Peeling celery was one of the most satisfying things I did all weekend. Clearly I need to branch out in my extra-curricular activities. I thinly sliced the celery on a diagonal, blanched it, and added it to a small saucepan with diced/cooked Yukon gold potatoes, some brunoise, and the clams (all 20 of 'em):

While this warmed, I got the cod cakes and the cod fillets ready to go. I sliced the cod cake log into six 1" slices (these were hard to cut, and I almost sliced off my entire torso twice):

I lightly coated them in flour and fried them in a bit of canola oil, then kept them warm in a low oven. I salted and peppered the six small cod fillets I cut last night, and sautéed the fish in a bit of oil, then drained them on a paper towel-covered plate. I stuck half my thumb in the hot, sizzling oil when I was turning the fish, so that's gonna look lovely in the morning. I gave my thumb immediate medical attention, and by that I mean I poured myself a glass of wine, which is what the internet said the U.S. Surgeon General totally recommends.

Time for plating -- first on the plate, a ring of parsley oil (which I also made yesterday, but didn't photograph because the process is much like all the other oils I've made, so check the archives to see how it's done, if you'd like):

Inside the ring of parsley oil went a spoonful of the creamy clam sauce:

On top of that? The COD CAKE! (hello, lover)

Next up? A sautéed cod fillet:

And last but not least, the clam chowder:

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, this dish was outstanding, if I do say so myself! I'd make this again, and in fact I'm still a bit giddy that there are more cod cakes in my future. This was equally liked by the adults and the kids who ate it, and I think it was more than a homerun. And, it was pleasure to cook. Many, many steps, but all were well worth it. Even peeling the celery, but I think I made that clear earlier in this post. But in case I didn't? Thomas Keller, you are a brilliant, brilliant man. I could hug you right now.

Up Next: Pot au Feu or Tongue in Cheek. Or, perhaps the Softshell Crab Sandwich.

Brands Used:
All-Clad and Le Creuset cookware
All food ingredients from Whole Foods
(I know not all of you think it's okay to shop at Whole Foods or some of the larger grocery store chains. Believe me, if I could do all my shopping locally at independent purveyors all the time, I would. I've been swamped with work and needed to cook this weekend, so I bought everything all in one trip. I give shout-outs to my local guys when I use them, so cut me some slack, folks. Thanks.)

Music to Cook By: dZihan and Kamien; Gran Riserva. Y'all, Pasha and Jessi danced to dZihan and Kamien's "Stiff Jazz" last week on "So You Think You Can Dance" and I had to find out more about this song and others like it. It's sort of Middle Eastern/Turkish/Austrian/techno/jazz fusion. Or something. All I know is I can hear you laughing at my "So You Think You Can Dance" reference, and I'm not liking that ONE BIT so KNOCK IT OFF or I'm going home and I'm taking my blog with me.


Jaye Joseph said...

Peeling celery does rule. I've been doing it for a couple of years now and I swear it helps so much in the texture arena.

This looks fantastic, I might have to do this one on my next big "cook".

Jaye Joseph said...

I also loved that Stiff Jazz from last week. I keep meaning to go check it out as well. That show is the thing I look forward to all week next to Rescue Me.

so much cake so little time said...

I've been referred here by a couple of people-love the blog idea, and assume you've read julie + julia. This post was really hilarious and witty and totally entertaining. I suffered through one keller recipe in school (dehydrated peppers for garnish=nightmare, but the rest of the dish was good) bur I'm enjoying living through the rest vicariously.

Anonymous said...

The photos look so yummy. Also? I completely agree with peeling celery, makes it edible instead of just fun to put into blue dye. I am so looking forward to the vicarious soft-shell crab dish btw.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say how much I love the level of kid-participation. A ten year old threatening to burgle for cod cakes?! That alone should lay to rest any charges that great food is essentially elitist ...

Leila said...

So, does peeling the celery really make it less stringy? Because that would be AMAZING.

Love the blog!

Anonymous said...

Great site! My only experience with cod was in Puerto Rico. Essentially cod fritters called "bacalaitos", the cod was mixed in batter and deep fried in giant oil vats. Probably not refined enough to pass as a FL canape, but delicious nonetheless.

Dolores said...

I've been following along for about a month now; enjoying your adventures with Mr. Keller.

Several of your stories have tempted, but your cod cakes have convinced me.... I HAVE to own this book.

pdxblogmommy said...

This looked delicious from a taste standpoint and what I assume is the texture as well. Not something I'd EVER get away with here for about a decade but it sure would be fun to try!

Oh, BTW, nice Espresso Bean porn there.

Unknown said...

NOOO! Don't go home and take your blog with you, I laughed but it was all in good fun. I understand sometimes it just comes on and you can't do anything about it.

That being said, this looks wonderful, and the celery bit, what a good idea, that may even convince my fiance to eat celery.

Anonymous said...

This is really funny. Your comment about the number of peppercorns is right on. We had lunch at TFL a few weeks ago; while waiting for the restaurant to open, we went to admire TFL's garden across the street. Someone came out from the building, not TK or CL, but someone from the kitchen, carrying a small plastic disposable-type bowl. He went to the garden, picked something, and returned in a few minutes. I HAD to ask him what it was - he showed me, and said it was "Some Kind" of basil (he didn't say some kind, I just don't remember what kind he said). The kicker is this - it was ONE sprig of basil. My husband afterwards joked that the chef in the kitchen was preparing food and shouted "We're one basil leaf short!" LOL.

Love your website, enthusiasm and writing style!

Anonymous said...

dude, you had me sold at the word "clam"!

Alice Q. Foodie said...

So so funny. I love it! I so enjoy your writing and the food looks great!

Kitt said...

I'm just sitting here saying "cod cakes. cod cakes" to myself. I'll try to make them some day, but in the meantime, I'm going to experiment with the phrase. A curse? "Oh, cod cakes!" An insult? "Geez, you're such a cod cake." A term of endearment? "C'mere, my little cod cake ..."

Unknown said...

Speaking of 10 year olds and foodie elitism... the same 10 year old boy who is going to break in and steal the cod cakes refused to eat White Castle burgers (aka slyders) today after peeking inside at the greasy mush. Who knows whether he would have appreciated them before the FLAH tastings began, but I'm wondering if you have ruined his palate, Carol.

Anonymous said...

Um, so I'm a year and a half late here, but calling Yorkshire pudding "boiled and boring" is just flat wrong -- batter fried in the drippings from a beef roast, with just the right amount of salt? There is nothing more delicious!