Jenny is in perpetual search for easy, weeknight recipes to attempt to feed her family. When they balk, she just eats more.
Over a 20-year friendship you talk about many things, but the ones I discuss with Steven Lee Myers often seem to center around our three shared hobbies: running, cooking fish, and staring balefully at a work computer screen wishing we were engaged in one of the other two.
So it was with a certain amount of animation that I encouraged Steve to post this recipe, one he recently recited to me as we stood in line for fish at the Bethesda farmer’s market after a run. We were discussing, yet again, our mythical restaurant where all of our friends would work, where we’d crack wise about tilefish and flirt genially with the customers, all of whom would be relieved to finally have a wonderful neighborhood haunt in Tenleytown instead of another horrid mattress shop with bright orange signs that seem designed to depress, and thus, induce sleep. So anyway, that’s not happening. But still, we must cook.
Steve’s wife Margaret is Portuguese-American and has brought a fair number of good food ways into the marriage, including this delicious cod roasted with linguica which he learned to cook from her mother. One of the many things I love about cooking fish is that it is generally done quickly, making it a great and healthy weeknight meal. It also happens to be a protein that takes to spices and herbs like a teenage girl to the lipstick shelf at Sephora. Bring it on!
As Steve explains, this dish begins with sausage in the pan, specifically linguica, a Portuguese smoked sausage that you may or may not be able to easily find, depending on your location. I have happily substituted Andouille and chorizo with good results. Although Steve does not call for onions, you can add a thinly sliced one at this point and saute until soft.
Next you move on to the stage that requires very little measuring or effort – you are adding wine, tomatoes (I’ve done it with fresh and high quality canned and both worked well) and simmering it all together until it makes a nice thick, robust sauce made so with a grassy white wine, if that’s what you have, and whatever herbs are doing well in the garden (I used oregano and thyme) matched with the bay leaf. While the sauce is cooking, you mix up your pepper paste, which you add to the sauce with the tomatoes, though that is not explicit in the recipe instructions.
I am about to say something that will make Steve very sad, the sort of thing that makes a friend really stop and wonder how it is they have managed for so many years to overlook a horribly flawed bit of reasoning in the mind of someone they otherwise like and respect, and ponder if this is the end. (This happened in reverse when Steve told to me, with no apparent shame or self-reproach, that he really liked the novel “Freedom.”)
But here goes: You can skip the pepper paste.
You will not be making an authentic Portuguese dish anymore, I understand. But you will still be making a delicious one where the two stars – shy, delicate cod and showy, libidinous sausage – carry on with their complex, flavorful show. It is midsummer on the plate -- lazy and slightly sweet, inviting you to sit and linger, and pour another glass of wine.
A note about the fish: you can alternatively roast it on a foil-lined pan for a few minutes then slice pieces individually and cover them with the sauce. Cod really is the right fish for this dish, but you can try halibut as well (also very good). I’d skip wreckfish, which I liked less.
You can reheat this for lunch the next day by removing the fish – which prevents both overcooking and the general hatred of your office-mates who don’t really care for your perpetual doings in the office kitchen as it is, and would prefer not to smell reheated fish – and microwaving the sauce, then gently tucking your fish back into the mix.
1 tablespoon olive oil
Half pounds linguica (or other spiced, smoked sausage) chopped into half-inch cubes
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
1 cup dry white wine
2 large tomatoes or three medium
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and blended coarsely with a half teaspoon of salt
2 bay leaves, fresh if possible, or dried
1 to 1.5 pound fresh cod, cut into four serving-size chunks
Salt to taste
1 handful parsley, chopped for garnish
See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.