A Black Cod by any other name is… a Sablefish


… or a Candlefish, Coalfish, Bluefish or perhaps the most descriptive, a Butterfish. So many names for one tasty fish! Black Cod has to be one of the simplest fish to prepare and still turn out restaurant-worthy. Chubby Hubby’s blog first enlightened me to the ease of making a mind-blowingly delicious miso cod recipe. The moist, delicate flakes of the fish simply slide apart, somehow maintaining the perfect balance between smooth and firm. Paired with a slightly sweet, slightly tart marinade, and ah… excuse me for a moment while I wipe the drool from my keyboard.

After a successful attempt at CH’s recipe, I decided to try my own hand and fruit it up a bit. Red currants have recently made an appearance at the farmer’s markets around here, and the simple sweet tartness of the little red berries seemed a great match with the creaminess of the fish. Not overpoweringly berry, just a little extra something in the soy/ginger/sake marinade.

I paired the fish with another market find – fresh fava beans, pur?ɬ©ed and mixed into a sake-infused risotto. The risotto was rich and thick, with a bit of extra sweetness (from the sake) and a whole lot of green from the favas. This is not a risotto for those who do not love the flavor of fava beans… each bite is thick with their nutty flavor.

Red Current Black Cod
Black Cod
Red Currants
Soy Sauce
Grated ginger

Rinse the cod, and place in a large ziplock bag. Add some sake, mirin and soy in about equal parts, enough to cover fill the bag about 1/3 of the way when held upright. Add the grated ginger (1 to 2 teaspoons). Throw in the red currents whole (stems are ok). Zip up the bag, getting out as much of the air as possible. Lightly burst the currents through the bag by pressing on them. Then carefully shake the bag to mix up the whole concoction. Place the bag in the refrigerator, and marinate at least 2 hours or overnight.

To cook, preheat the oven to 400F. Place in an oven proof baking dish with sides, skin side up, and pour about a 1/4 inch of the marinade into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. If desired, broil for about a minute or two on high to crisp up the skin. The fish will be very tender at this point, so be sure to use a wide spatula to remove it from the pan.

Fava Bean Risotto
(recipe adapted from AllRecipes)
Serves 2 as a side

1/2 pound fresh, freshly shelled fava beans
3 cups stock (fish, chicken or veg)
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 t crushed garlic
2 or 3 large Chard leaves, loosely chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup sake
salt to taste

To prepare the fava beans, boil in salted water for about 5 minutes, and drain and immediately blanch in ice water. Set stand for a couple of minutes, and then remove meat from the tough outer skin by gently squeezing. (If you are using frozen fava beans, you can skip this step.)

Set aside about 1/4 of the beans. Puree the remainder of the beans until they are a smooth paste. Set aside.

Heat the stock, and keep it warm until needed.

In a medium high-sided skillet (or wok), add the onions, garlic and 1 T of the butter, and cook over low heat until the onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the rice, and stir for about 2 minutes. Then, increase the heat to medium-high and add the sake, a little at a time, stirring constantly until it is absorbed. Add 1/4 cup of the stock and stir. When it is absorbed, add another 1/4 cup. Continue adding the stock in small quantities, allowing the rice to soak it up between each addition. When you get down to about 1 cup remaining, start checking the texture of the rice. Keep adding until the rice is still just a little firm, but has no hint of crunch.

Reduce heat to low, and stir in the chard, the fava bean paste and the remaining butter. Gently fold until the fava bean puree has been well distributed and the chard has softened. Add a bit more stock if it seems too dry. Stir in the remaining fava beans, and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

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11 thoughts on “A Black Cod by any other name is… a Sablefish

  1. oh pray tell me which farmers market did you get the redcurrants from. I havent seen them in 6 years since I left Bighty. Nary one to be found around here. I need them, and white and black currants too so I can make me a lovely summer pudding. They are so beautiful, especially the red and the white.

  2. Ah funny! Black Cod is my favorite fish. When we get it here, I just keep buying it (and it is not always available). I love the fatiness and flakiness of it! I also marinate it with mushroom soy sauce, brown sugar and sesame oil, and then broil it. It caramelizes, heaven! I will def try your lovely recipe! Yum!

  3. Bea – ooo, brown sugar and sesame sounds fantastic too! And, I’m sure broiling would be yummy (and quicker!)

    Sam – I got mine at the Columbia City farmers market up here in Seattle. I’m surprised you can’t get them in the Bay Area… I thought you could get anything there! They had red and black, although I just got the red ones… along with a whole flat of other berries (more recipes coming!)

  4. Oh, my… that juicy black cod sitting pretty on top of that beautifully green flava risotto is just making me drool so much.

    And those red currants are so picture perfect. Love the photos L. Absolutely gorgeous!

  5. hi, beautiful pictures and post, as always! redcurrants just about never wing their way to our tropical shores, so i’ll have to make do by sighing over the sheer gorgeousness of your pictures…

  6. Mae – ha! That is a funny typo!

    Shaz – Thanks!

    J – Well, I’ll enjoy them for the both of us! This is the first time I’ve ever cooked with the fresh ones… and I’m in love with them.

  7. I loved that recipe of CH?Ǭ¥s too. Don?Ǭ¥t even know what black cod is, but I did it with salmon and it was awsome.And the real thing looks even better

  8. Ximena – mmm. I hadn’t thought much of trying the miso/sake recipe with other fish, but I’m sure you are right… it would be delicious.

    KB – I think what I’m learning is that names are very variable and regional… sometimes several different foods have the same name… how confusing is that!

    Anyway… the butterfish reference came from Wikipedia. Which means that at least someone calls the sablefish a butterfish 🙂


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