Apparently it’s “Blue Monday” today – the most depressing day of the year – and true to form, the weather is currently grim. If you need cheering up with some good old-fashioned comfort food, you’ll surely enjoy this lovely recipe by Rick Stein. I discovered it via his ‘Long Weekends’ series (which is excellent, by the way) – specifically the one where he goes to one of my favourite cities, Reykjavik. The cod gratin bit is really easy, but the béarnaise sauce takes a little finesse. I hadn’t made one before, so I felt very accomplished and chef-like when it turned out well. Try it for yourself on this rainy day. This recipe serves four, so I did half-quantities of everything except the béarnaise (I wanted to have some leftover sauce to have with steak).
You will need
- 2 leeks, sliced
- 2 carrots, sliced
- 1 onion, chopped
- 40g butter, plus extra for greasing
- 600g cod loin, skinned and cut into 3cm/1in chunks
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- 50ml dry white wine
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the béarnaise sauce
- 70ml white wine vinegar
- 2 shallots, finely chopped
- 2 sprigs fresh tarragon, plus 1 tsp freshly chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 peppercorns
- 4 free-range egg yolks
- 300g unsalted butter
Chop all the vegetables and fry them gently in butter until they soften a little. Preheat the oven to 180C (160C for fan ovens).
Then add the cod and flour and stir for a couple of minutes. Add the wine and stir for another minute. Season with salt and pepper and add spoon the mixture into a greased oven-proof dish. Put to one side.
While the veg and cod are cooking on the hob, you can be preparing the base for the béarnaise sauce. In another pan, put the chopped shallots, fresh tarragon, bay leaf and peppercorns into the white wine vinegar and heat gently. The liquid will reduce in volume, and when there’s about 50% less than there was, you can strain it through a sieve and allow the liquid to cool.
Beat the eggs with a teaspoon of water, stir in the strained and cooled vinegar liquid, and then put the mixture into a basin over a saucepan of simmering water. Keep whisking until the mixture thickens slightly and increases in volume (it should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon). Meanwhile, melt the butter – you will not believe how much butter has to go into this sauce.
Whisking all the time, slowly pour the melted butter into the egg mixture until it starts to thicken. I got Lee to pour the butter in for me while I did the whisking. When it’s a nice smooth sauce consistency, fold in the tarragon.
This is what it looked like when stirring, to give you an idea of the thickness.
Cover the cod gratin mixture with the sauce and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes. This was how it looked before it went in the oven:
And this was how it looked when it came out. I’m not sure whether this is how it’s meant to look, but it was very tasty nonetheless!
Proper winter comfort food. Enjoy!