Monday, May 20, 2013

Black and White: Beluga Lentils and Steamed Cod with Roasted Fennel and Tomato Water

I started working on this recipe a few months ago and it basically got lost in the shuffle. When I happened to stumble across the recipe competition at Love Your Lentils, I figured it was time to finish the recipe up.  It is  a way to lighten up lentils which seem to have a reputation (at least with me) for being mostly a cooler weather food. 
There are several techniques being used in this recipe, but the result is lots of texture, beautiful appearance and a rather delicious slightly smokey meal.
I couldn't find Beluga lentils anywhere in my area, so I had to substitute green french lentils. Do not substitute any other kind of lentil but these two, you want a lentil that is going to hold its shape when cooked; not break down.

And here it is the link to my submission, swing by and maybe give me a vote or two:
Crimson Coat Chef's Love Your Lentil Submission

Beluga Lentils and Steamed Cod

2 1/2 cups fresh tomato puree
1/2 large Fennel bulb, reserve fronds. 
3 teaspoons olive oil, divided.
1/2 small onion, fine diced.
1 teaspoon minced garlic.
1 bay leaf
1/4 -1/2 teaspoon really good spicy smoked Spanish paprika.
1/2 cup Beluga lentils (substitute green french lentils)
1 large tomato, concasse (see notes for directions on this technique)
2 pieces Cod loin, 140-150g each 
Salt and white pepper

Eight hours before take your tomato puree, it would be best to use farm fresh tomatoes in season but outside of that a really good tinned variety will work well. Bundle the puree in a cheesecloth (or a clean non-terry kitchen towel). Tie the bundle to a wooden spoon so it hangs and suspend the bundle over a pot or bowl. Stash this set up in the fridge and wait 8-12 hours. The resulting liquid, called tomato water, will be full of tomato flavour and beautifully clear. Discard the solids.
**This can be done up to 4 days ahead of time and held in the fridge.

Preheat oven to 400F/205C 
Cut the fennel into thirds, brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on a lined baking sheet and roast for 30-40 minutes, turning once half way through the cooking time.  The fennel should be cooked through and beginning to caramelize.

Meanwhile cook your lentils. Start with a 4 quart sauce pan over medium heat. Sweat the onions in 1 teaspoon of oil,  you don't want any colour just for them to be transparent; about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another 60 seconds. Add the bay leaf, 1/2 cup of lentils and 1 1/2 cups of water. Season lightly with salt. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat, simmer for 30 minutes, until lentils are tender.  Stir in tomato concasse and paprika off heat. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Season your cod pieces with salt and white pepper. Place in a steamer basket and steam for 6-8 minutes or until opaque through. 

Now lets bring it all together! 
Warm the tomato water that you patiently waited for, season to taste. Divide the water between two deep bowls or soup plates. Place half of the cooked lentils in the center of the bowl and broth. Place hot fennel leaves around the edges of the lentils. Top the lentils off with the cod and garnish with the reserved fennel fronds and a bit of tomato concasse.

Photo by Bob Poore

This lovely dish, sort of a fish soup, tastes lovely. Smokey, sweet, peppery with the lentils. I really was looking for the black on white with a splash of red for this recipe but the French green lentils really held their own with this dish. 

Tomato Concasse: This refers to tomatoes that are peeled, seeded and roughly chopped. To do this, follow a few simple steps.
-Remove the tomato's stem. Cut a shallow X into the bottom of the tomato.
-Place the tomatoes into boiling water for about 30 seconds. Immediately remove to an ice water bath.
-Once cool, the skin will easily peel right off.
-Slice the tomatoes horizontally (not through the stem) and scoop out the seeds.
-Chop for use.

Crimson Coat Chef Tips:
Tomato water must be made out of great tomatoes. It is basically the essence of the flavour. You could even use heirloom varieties or some great Romas in season, fire roast them and add another layer of flavour to your finished dish.

Kitchen Hack!
Don't have a steamer basket? That's okay!
Take a large pot, make 3 large, equal sized balls out of aluminium foil. Arrange these in a triangle in the bottom of the pot and place a heat proof plate on top. 
Fill with water to just below the plate, bring to a simmer, place your fish on the plate, cover and you're steaming.

No comments: