I was looking for a recipe that incorporated the Spanish chorizo I had made when I noticed a feature in Food and Wine about “iconic chefs.” It’s hard to argue with the list, one chef chosen for each decade of age (including Achatz, Flay, Keller, Puck, Jaffrey), but the recipes associated with each chef are what caught my interest, in particular, Thomas Keller’s contribution. “Olive-Oil Poached Cod with Mussels, Orange, and Chorizo” not only looked delicious, but it would be simple to prepare.
Scaling down the basic proportions, I visited my local fishmonger to buy a pound and a half of mussels and three thick six-ounce cod filets. He was out of cod, but suggested I try hake loin instead. I agreed, told him the size and thickness I needed, and watched in awe as he butchered an entire hake to make the filets. In less then three minutes. When I got home with the hake, I salted the pieces generopusly and let them sit for five minutes.
The recipe requires poaching the fish in a quart of olive oil, which I thought would be wasteful. A few hours before buying the fish, I portioned a cup of olive oil into an ice cube tray and let it freeze. When it was time to rinse off the salt and dry the fish, I added it to a sous vide bag along with the frozen oil, solving two problems at once: not gunking up my vacuum sealer with oil, and being able to have the bag ready in advance of when it needed to be cooked.
I assembled the rest of my ingredients: four ounces of chopped chorizo, a thinly sliced large shallot, a half cup of finely chopped fennel, a quarter teaspoon of piment d’Espelette, a half cup of wine, a cup of fresh orange juice, a whole orange, a cup of chicken stock (not shown), and the mussels.
I cooked the chorizo in a bit of canola oil until about three tablespoons of fat had rendered out.
After removing the cooked chorizo, I sweated the fennel and shallots, then added the mussels and wine and cooked until the shells opened.
I removed the mussels, strained the grit out of the cooking liquid, then returned it to the pan along with the orange juice, chicken stock, and piment d’Espelette, simmering until reduced to a half cup. I stirred in a quarter cup of olive oil and kept the sauce warm.
While the sauce reduced, I finished the rest of the prep. I removed the mussels from their shells, then peeled and sectioned the orange, adding the extra juice to the sauce. I dropped the bag with the fish and oil into my immersion circulator, where it cooked for half an hour at 180°F. Just before the fish was done, I added the mussels to the sauce to warm up.
I removed the fish, blotted it dry, then cut each filet into three pieces. I transferred the hake to shallow bowls, spooned the mussels and sauce around, then garnished with the orange segments, chorizo, and reserved fennel fronds.
I served the dish with a chilled German Riesling.
I wasn’t sure how the dish would taste. I knew that the fennel and mussels were complimentary, as were the citrus and fish, but it was the two different heats – from the sauce and chorizo – that tied everything together.
I want to make this dish again, not only because it was so tasty, but also to incorporate a variation described in the recipe’s introduction:
At The French Laundry in Napa Valley, chef Thomas Keller serves this dish with an orange gelée flavored with Esplette peppers.
I’m confident I can do that.