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(Belated) Birthday Braised Lingcod with Baby Potatoes, Fennel, and Saffron

"I have a special birthday delivery to drop off tomorrow morning," wrote one of my best friends in a message last night. "I didn't want to give you something that you have to work for on your birthday, so the day after." She dropped this off this morning.

What is it? I asked, my curiosity more than a little piqued.

"A giant lingcod filet. I know you will come up with something divine to do with it."


I immediately started to look for lingcod recipes.  Lingcod is not actually a cod; it belongs to a group of Pacific fish that include sablefish, rockfish and scorpionfish. It's listed as a 'best choice' on the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch. Plus a friend had caught it, so I was doubly thrilled.

Her husband is an accomplished fisherman and has supplied me with crab, salmon, and more. But I don't think I've ever gotten lingcod from him. I love an adventure.

She brought me a hefty bag of fileted fish. Turns out, she wasn't supposed to bring me all of it. Whoops. So, I'm packing up the rockfish I didn't cook. It's just me and D for the next two dinners, so we definitely don't need all that fish.

Blackened or panko-encrusted seem to be the most popular ways to cook lingcod; I knew I could cook it en papillote, but I wanted to try something new. More reading let me know that I could treat it as I would any firm white fish such as halibut. So I decided to braise the lingcod with some baby potatoes, fennel, saffron, and herbs. That will be the perfect belated birthday dinner! I decided.

A funny story: Jenn didn't want me to have to cook on my birthday. My mom didn't want me to cook on my birthday which is why she dropped off a complete dinner along with a cheesecake.

I actually find cooking relaxing, so cooking on my birthday isn't a big deal. One of my sons did comment, "Mommy, you didn't make your own birthday cake this year. I'm proud of you."

My mother thinks that I'm raising my children with unrealistic expectations. "Those boys are never going to find a woman who thinks it's normal to cook her own birthday dinner...and make her own birthday cake. People go out to eat on their birthday, Cam!" she insisted.

Oh, brother. I suppose that is a valid concern for a grandmother - that her grandbaby boys are not going to find suitable spouses and it will be all her child's fault. Oh, brother. I say again.

Another of my best friends was laughing as I recounted the conversation. But even she agreed, "People do go out to eat on their birthdays!"

Maybe next year. This year, I will happily cook my own (belated) birthday lingcod. Thanks, Mike and Jenn. And thanks, too, to G for bringing Auntie Cam herbs from his herb garden!!

  • pinch of saffron threads
  • 2 T sliced almonds
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 anchovies, rinsed
  • 1 C white wine
  • 2 C water
  • 2 T olive oil
  • lingcod filets (and a few rockfish filets)
  • 1 lb baby potatoes (I used a mixture of purple, gold, and red)
  • 1 fennel bulb, julienned
  • 3 to 4 carrots, sliced on the bias
  • 4 T fresh herbs (I used a combination of rosemary, fennel fronds, and some parsley)
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • edible flowers for garnish, optional

Crush saffron threads lightly and place in a small bowl. Add 2 T hot water and set aside.

In a mortar and pestle, grind together almonds, garlic, and anchovies with a pinch of salt to form a paste. Set aside.

In a large, flat-bottom pan, heat olive oil. Season fish with salt and pepper. When pan and oil are hot, sear fish for 1 to 2 minutes on each side. Remove to a plate or platter.

Reduce heat and add anchovy paste to the pan. Cook until garlic is fragrant, approximately 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in 3 C liquid (1 C wine and 2 C water) and deglaze bottom of pan. Add potatoes, carrots, and fennel. Bring to a boil.

Add saffron with its soaking water, reduce heat, cover, and simmer until potatoes are just tender, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.

Carefully add seared fish filets to the pan. Pour in any liquid that has drained onto the plate or platter. Sprinkle with 2 T herbs. and bring back to a simmer.

Cover and poach until fish is opaque, approximately 5 to 6 minutes. With a slotted spoon or tongs, remove fish, potatoes, carrots, and fennel to a serving platter.

Turn up heat, bring the braising liquid to a boil, and reduce liquid in pan by half.

Taste and adjust seasoning. Stir in the remaining herbs and simmer for just 30 seconds. Spoon broth over fish and vegetables and serve immediately, garnished with edible flowers, if desired.

Thanks so much for the (belated) birthday dinner, Gonzalezes!
You definitely know what I like: delicious inspiration!


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