This is a recipe of my neighbor Beppi’s. He made it for us for Christmas Eve dinner, but this time of year it’s a great dish to make, since all of the sauce ingredients are local and in-season, making the finished dish that much fresher-tasting. The fish is basically poached in a light sauce with tomatoes, fennel, olives and onions until it is practically falling apart. For Christmas, Beppi made it with rice. Tonight, I was in the mood for crispy oven fries with it, since I love potatoes with fish.
The dish begins with the sauce, which begins with sauteing aromatics. Onions and fennel are sliced and sauteed in olive oil. Chopped tomatoes are added (this time of year, I’m using fresh ripe tomatoes–in the winter I used canned whole peeled tomatoes).
Then a little white wine, broth and olives are added, along with the fish filets. The whole mixture is simmered and reduced until the fish is falling apart and the sauce has thickened slighlty. It’s nice, gentle way to cook cod and very forgiving, since the fish will tend to break apart naturally as it simmers. This would also be great over pasta.
The dish can be made in a half-hour from start to finish but I wouldn’t make it and reheat it, since I think that fish gets fishier when reheated. To make the dish for company, you would simply make the sauce and set it aside. Add the fish at the last minute and simmer for about 15 – 20 minutes prior to serving. No frying or grilling–just gentle poaching.
Cod alla Livornese
2 – 1/2 lbs fresh cod filets
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
1 small bulb of fennel
1/4 c olive oil
1- 1/2 c chopped fresh tomatoes
1 hot pepper (optional–my addition)
1/2 c pitted olives (I used Nicoise)
1/2 c white wine
1 c chicken broth (good bouillon is fine)
2 tbls chopped fennel fronds
2 tbls fresh chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste
To make the sauce, first clean the fennel by removing the tops (take a couple of tops and chop for later use in the recipe) and peeling off the outer layer (it will seem wasteful, since the outer layer is often half the vegetable, but it’s too tough and fibrous to eat). Slice bulbs in half lengthwise and remove the triangular core in each half.
In a broad skillet on low heat,, saute fennel, onion and hot pepper (if using) in olive oil until vegetables are beginning to soften and turn lightly golden (about 5 – 7 minutes).
Turn heat to high and add chopped tomatoes, olives and white wine and reduce for a minute or so. Add broth, and some chopped fennel fronds and simmer for about 7 minutes.
Add in fish filets and poach on medium heat for about 10 – 15 minutes, or until cooked through. Sprinkle with chopped parlsey.