Gabrielle Hamilton’s Cod in Saffron Broth with Leeks, Potatoes and Savoy Cabbage
2 lbs. cod, filleted, skin on and butchered to 5 ounces
2 Tbsp. Berberé Spice Mixture (recipe follows)
1 cup fish stock (recipe follows)
1 medium shallot, finely diced
3 small pinches saffron
3 to 4 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter
2 medium leeks, sliced to ½-inch disks as far up into green as viable, completely free of sand
Generous ½ lb. savoy cabbage, cut into attractive wide ribbons
1 dozen Yukon gold baby potatoes, scrubbed, skin on, sliced into ½-inch disks
1 cinnamon stick
2 thyme branches, long and thin, not the bushy, woody ones
Berberé Spice Mixture
1 quart plus 1 pint
1/3 cup coriander seeds
1 1/3 cups cumin seeds
¼ cup cloves
2/3 cup cardamom pods
1/3 cup black peppercorns
2 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. allspice berries
2/3 cup fennel seeds
1 ounce dried chilies de arbol, remove stem, seeds are fine
¼ cup fenugreek
1/3 cup ginger powder
2 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. turmeric powder
3 lbs. white fish bones
3 cups white wine
3 bulbs fennel, cut into quarters
3 stalks celery, cleaned up and cut for mirepoix
1 yellow onion, peeled, cut into sixths
1 tsp. salt
Black peppercorns, a few
2/3 cup kosher salt
For the vegetables:
• Bring 8 quarts of well-salted water to a boil in a large pot. Have a baker’s rack set inside a sheet pan ready at your station.
• Add potatoes to boiling water and cook until nearly done, keeping in mind they will carry over residual heat while they drain. Gently remove with a spider and lay out on a baker’s rack to cool.
• Repeat with the leeks.
• And then the cabbage.
• When vegetables are cool, pack separately.
For the pickup:
• Bring fish stock, minced shallot, thyme, saffron threads and cinnamon stick to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat. Let it slightly reduce and come together while you cook the fish.
• Heat moderate ladle of clarified butter in flat-bottomed saute pan over medium-high heat. Weed out the warped and buckled pans before service or they will kill your game all night long.
• Season portioned codfish on both sided with the Berberé spice rub. Take care with your seasoning – it wants to be bold and have a point of view, but not aggressive or unbalanced.
• Sear codfish, skin side down, in the hot pan with clari and take it all the way on the stove top, flipping once. Get good, crisp, golden brown skin, with opaque flesh. You want the natural flake line to start to open, but don’t take it so far that you lose all that milky enzyme as it weeps into the pan.
To finish the broth:
• Look at what you have in your saucepot – further reduce or build back up slightly with more fish stock, depending on what you see. You want fragrant, full-bodied, slightly viscous saffron broth that can still receive a few nuts of cold mounted butter and is still hot and brothy enough to be able to warm through a few ribbons of juicy cabbage, several coins of watery leeks and a few waxy potato slices without totally thinning out into body-less liquid.
• Spoon the finished broth and all the veg into the wide bowl; leave nothing in the pan. Center cod, flesh side up.
• Fish out the cinnamon stick and the thyme branch and make sure they are visible in the bowl, like a garnish.
Berberé Spice Mixture
•In a very large sauteuse, dry toast the first 9 above ingredients together until fragrant. Stir and shake during the toasting.
• As soon as you get strong pleasant aroma – don’t allow it to get acrid and burnt – turn out onto a full sheet of parchment to cool.
• When thoroughly cool, lift edges of parchment to neatly funnel seeds into spice grinder, in manageable batches.
• Grind all to fine, mix well with the final 3 ingredients above. Store in pint containers; label and date.
• Rinse bones of blood, in salt water if necessary. Remove gills as needed and break spines in two. Rinse again if snapping spines reveals more blood.
• In a stainless steel pot, add bones, lay vegetables on top and add wine. Be sure you have not grabbed a crappy aluminum pot in haste.
• Add cold water to cover by 2 inches
• Add bay leaves, 1 teaspoon of salt and a few black peppercorns.
• Bring to a boil and reduce to a bare simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes. Let settle and partially cool. Strain through several layers clean, damp cheesecloth set inside a fine mesh chinois. Give it the time it needs to drip clear. If clarifying: Beat egg whites to tight and foamy. (Like shaving cream.) Then pour/spoon into simmering stock to form the raft. Let it go 15 minutes. Spoon off the dirty, scummy raft BEFORE straining. Repeat if necessary.