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Saturday, November 5, 2016

Fresh Cod with Ice Wine Sauce

When we first moved to  France, I decided to participate in a televised cooking competition.  I really didn't know what to expect but thought it might be a fun experience.  Nobody knew me there so if it didn't work out, if I failed miserably or embarrassed myself, how bad could it be?   I was very naive and I can honestly say now that it was one of the most challenging things I have ever done and completely life changing.

After the first night of filming, I came home and told Mike that I was in over my head. I thought I would do OK but had not really thought about cooking for people whose culture revolves around food, who live to eat and who spend A LOT of time discussing cooking techniques, recipes and ingredients.   I remember being told that many French people can tell you when a wonderful Brillat-savarin cheese was produced because they can recognize the subtle flavours of the seasonal wildflowers and herbs the cows have have been grazing on?!?!  Really! - Amazing!

There was a point when I thought the stress and my insecurity would completely overwhelm me and finally just had to let it go, do my best and hope it all worked out. (By the way, this all happened before cooking school).

I crossed my fingers and, with great pride,  presented a completely Canadian menu that consisted of a Quebec mini tourtière with fig chutney appetizer,  a trio-starter of wild Pacific salmon tartar, marinated prairie beef cubes  with horseradish cream and French Canadian baked beans with smoked duck (very small portions of each).  The main was this dish: the fresh Atlantic Cod with a Niagara region Ice Wine sauce and finally, desert was a reversed berry crumble with maple mascarpone cream.

Well, as it turned out, I won.  Not only did they love the food but the French love Canadians.  They call us their cousins and although none of the wonderful people I had the great opportunity to compete with had ever been to Canada, they all expressed how the meal had transported them and that they hoped that some day they would have the chance to experience our great wide open spaces and relaxed kind attitude.  I was very touched and grateful.  The monetary prize was small but what I got out of this experience was huge.  

This dish is simple to make and the sauce can be used with any fish you like.  I served it with asparagus with bacon and potato crisps to add texture and a little saltiness to balance the sweetness of the sauce.  It always gets rave reviews.

You will need:  for 2 portions

  • 300g of fresh white fish: cod, halibut, tilapia, sole, etc - cut in 4 even sized filets
  • butter
  • 1 small shallot finely diced
  • 1/4 cup (60ml)  of ice wine
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) of 15% thick cooking cream or heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp of salted herbs (if you don't have, you can just season with salt)
  • pepper
  • 1 bunch of thin green asparagus, bottom 1/3 of stem removed
  • 3 slices of bacon, cut in small pieces
  • 1 small potato, julienned
  • peanut or vegetable oil for frying
  • espelette pepper and a few capers as garnish

  1. Begin by making the sauce:  Put 1 tbsp (15ml) of oil in a small saucepan over medium heat;
  2. Add the diced shallot and cook to soften for about 3 minutes (no colour);
  3. Add the ice wine (1/4 cup - 60ml) and let reduce for about 3 minutes - gentle boil;
  4. Add the cream (1/2 cup - 120ml) and salted herbs (1 tbsp) or salt and simmer for about 3 minutes;
  5. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper.
  6. The sauce can be gently reheated when your are ready to serve the fish (if it becomes too thick, just add a little water).
  7. Cook the bacon pieces (3 slices) over medium heat in a skillet until they begin to colour and crisp (not too crispy) and drain on a paper towel;
  8. Cook the asparagus in a pot of generously salted boiling water until just tender and plunge into an ice bath to stop the cooking process and retain the bright green colour.  Drain on paper towel and reserve;
  9. When you are ready to serve, reheat the asparagus in a little butter in a skillet and add the bacon;
  10. To cook the fish, line your pan with a round cut-out of parchment paper (this will prevent the fish from sticking you can check out how to do this on red snapper with gingered butternut squash sauce );
  11. Add a generous tbsp of butter and melt over medium heat;
  12. Season the fish on both sides with salt and pepper and place fillets in the parchment paper lined pan.  Cook for about 2 minutes per side;
  13. Heat your plates and place the asparagus with bacon in the centre.  Add the fish fillets over and spoon some sauce on the fish and around the plate.  Top with a potato crisp (if you have or a few fresh herbs) and sprinkle with  a little espelette pepper and a few capers (adds a little acidity).
To make the potato crisps (so easy and makes any dish look nice):
  1. Julienne the potatoes using a mandolin (see below);
  2. Put about 1/2 '' (2cm) of oil in a deep skillet over medium heat;
  3. Sprinkle the julienned potatoes into the skillet in a round pattern and cook until edges begin to colour.  Turn with a spatula and cook the other side (the touching potatoes slivers will stick together).  Drain on paper towel and season with salt and pepper.

Smile of the day:


  1. Ah que mes papilles sont transporté par cette recette !!! Quels souvenirs et fierté.
    xo Mike

  2. Ha ha - merci mon amour!


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