Cook school confidential: cooking with cod

Cook school confidential: cooking with cod

by Great British Chefs 29 September 2016

We teamed up with Pascal Aussignac to learn the secrets of cooking cod to perfection and how to prepare it like a Michelin-starred chef in the kitchen at home.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews as well as access to some of Britain’s greatest chefs. Our posts cover everything we are excited about from the latest openings and hottest food trends to brilliant new producers and exclusive chef interviews.

Cod has long been a firm favourite in the chip shops, supermarkets, fishmongers and restaurants of the UK. While we’ve certainly become more adventurous over the years, trying new fish species like gurnard, dab and John Dory, cod still holds a special place in our hearts.

Pascal Aussignac is a champion of Gascon cuisine, cooking informal, innovative dishes inspired by his youth growing up in Toulouse and Bordeaux. As a lover of all things fish and seafood, he sees cod as one of the best species to work with – particularly cod caught off the coast of Norway.

‘I went to Norway earlier this year in January to see the Skrei fish being caught first-hand,’ says Pascal, referring to a seasonal variety of cod caught at the beginning of each year. ‘I could see the way that they treated, caught and dealt with the cod was fantastic, and the flesh was this amazing pristine white. That’s why I love to use Norwegian cod and talk about it.’

We invited Pascal to Le Cordon Bleu cook school so he could share his favourite ways of cooking Norwegian cod with a small group of bloggers and journalists. After demonstrating one of his most iconic canapés – crunchy grapes – he shared his favourite way to cook cod during autumn: confit with juniper and butternut squash.

Pascal grapes
Pascal's crunchy grapes went down a treat with everyone in the class
Blowtorched cod
After being gently cooked in oil, the cod fillets were smoked with juniper and blowtorched for extra texture and flavour

‘The recipe focuses on Norwegian cod and pairs it with autumn flavours, which is perfect for the season,’ he explains. ‘We have squash, juniper ash, black garlic sauce and a sabayon made with verjus, which is quite acidic and full of fermented flavours. The squash will be made into a purée and served diced, slightly al dente for texture, while the fish is cooked confit in oil before being blowtorched to crisp it up a bit.’

While the cooking methods used in Pascal’s dish are a little more adventurous than what we’d normally use when cooking cod, the chef was keen to show that it wasn’t hard to recreate at home. Perfect for dinner parties or occasions when you want to impress, cooking the cod in a confit helps intensify both the flavour and texture of the fish.

‘Confiting cod helps keep the flakes in the flesh visible and means they will hold their shape,’ he says. ‘It’s not an aggressive cooking method because the oil is heated to a low temperature, which makes it a bit different from pan-frying or steaming. The flakes will look shiny and the oil will work its way into the centre of the fish, too, and using juniper to smoke the cod before blowtorching it adds even more flavour.’