This is one of the easiest recipes I can think of, yet I would be very happy to be served something like this on a restaurant. It’s made in under 30 minutes, so what’s not to love about this contemporary Norwegian dish?
The key to getting this recipe right is getting your hands on a totally fresh piece of fish, and pan fry it to perfection. While it can be made with practically any firm, white fish, like pollock, halibut and wolffish, I have used Norwegian Skrei, which is in season in February and March:
The Northeast Atlantic has the world’s largest population of cod. By far, the largest part of this population is the Northeast Arctic cod, as it is labelled by the ICES, or the Arcto-Norwegian cod stock, also referred to as skrei, a Norwegian name meaning something like “the wanderer”, distinguishing it from coastal cod.
- Dice the mushrooms and sear so hard they scream in agony
- Reduce heat and sauté the onions with the mushrooms
- Add the cream and let simmer until thickened
- Bread the fish in hazelnuts
- Fry the fish on medium heat to perfection
- 4 x 180 g skinless back loin fillet
- Fine sea salt
- Egg wash
- 50 g hazelnuts
- 1 tbsp neutral oil
- 800 g mushrooms, diced
- 2 large shallots, finely sliced
- 300 ml whipping cream
- Fine sea salt
- 1/4 lemon, juiced
- Curley parsley, finely chopped
- Freshly cracked pink peppercorns
Start by sprinkling fine se salt on all sides of each fillet, and let sit in the fridge for 30 minutes, or more. Whatever suits your schedule. This will firm up your fish, and also make it retain far more moisture, making it incredibly juicy.
Next, cube or slice your mushrooms. Or both, for a more interesting texture. A mix of champignon and shiitake is wonderful. If you are a forager, any bolete, slippery jack or slimy spike-cap is spectacular in this dish.
Add a small amount of neutral oil to your white hot pan and sear the mushrooms so hard they scream in agony. I shit you not: you will actually hear them scream if your pan is hot enough.
Sprinkle with fine sea salt when they start catching a bit of colour, and continue searing until they are nice and golden brown.
Turn down the heat to medium, and when the pan is medium hot, add the shallots and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the cream and let simmer until thickened. When thickened, stir in 2/3 of the parsley and the lemon juice, put a lid on and keep warm.
As you fry the mushrooms, prepare three plates: one with flour, one with egg wash, and one with finely chopped, raw hazelnuts. (you could pulse the nuts in an upright blender instead of chopping, but not too fine!)
When you have added the cream to the mushrooms, pat your fish dry. Take one piece of fish and put the skin side down into the flour. Shake off excess flour, then dip into the egg wash so you just cover the flour, not the sides of the fish, then put it on top of the hazelnuts. Repeat this process with the remaining pieces of fish.
Add a good amount (like 1 mm, covering the entire base of the pan) of neutral oil to a medium hot cast iron pan, and place each piece of fish nutty side down. And here comes the trick:
How to pan fry (any) fish to absolute perfection
Fish is extremely sensitive to heat treatment; far more so than meat. But if you know what to look for, the fish will tell you exactly when it’s done, and it is very easy to get right. Here’s how:
As the heat starts to penetrate the fish meat, it’ll change colour; it’ll go from a translucent white (or pink if it’s salmon) to a opaque of the same colour, and you will clearly see this on the side of the fish fillet.
When the fish is opaque almost up to the center of the fish, it is time to gently flip it over. When the other side is opaque 2/3 towards the middle, turn off the heat. The residual heat in the pan will do the rest.
After just a few more minutes, it will have just become opaque all the way through, and that means it is perfect. If you let it sit a few more minutes, it’ll be overdone.
It is then better to take the fish off the pan and set aside to rest on a cutting board than let it sit longer in the pan if you’re not ready with the rest of your dish. The core temperature you’re after is 50-55C (122-131F) for cod.
With a very thick piece of fish, like in this recipe, you need to use a lower temperature. In this recipe, I have also used the hazelnut crust, which works as a heat barrier, making it cook much slower on the crusted side, so that is why I use medium heat. With a thinner piece of fish, or without the crust, I would sear it off like a steak at medium-high to high depending on thickness.
Never use a non-stick pan for frying anything, since high heat will destroy its non-stick layer; instead use a stainless steel or carbon steel pan for high heat searing, or a cast iron pan for lower heat searing (since cast iron has better non-stick properties at low heat.)
With the fish done, it is time to plate. Lift off the lid of the mushrooms and stir quickly. Divide the mushrooms between 4 plates or bowls. Sprinkle the remaining parsley over, then crack over a little bit of pink peppercorns.
Using a spatula, lift out a piece of cod and place on top of each mushroom mound.
Done and dig in!