Broiled Cod with Chickpea-Chorizo-Spinach Stew
And now a story of love and woe. First the love: this dish evolved from a Mark Bittman recipe, which we still often make in its unmodified version. We love all things Spanish in our household, especially after my wife and I had our food-tour style honeymoon there through Catalonia and parts of Basque country. While this dish isn’t classically Spanish it has enough elements to it that can transport us back to Spain with just one bite.
I’m also especially proud of this dish because I have made it many times, tinkering with the recipe until I have finally reached a place where I feel ownership over it. So much of cooking is just about making variations of classic recipes, or sometimes just outright copying recipes but slightly changing the amount of one ingredient to make it your “own.” And there is nothing wrong with that—things are classic for a reason, and a lot of the recipes I’ll be posting to this blog are exactly those kinds of recipes. But every once in a while you get to a place where you think you’ve really hit on something—which in my world is defined as something I will put on the menu of the imaginary restaurant I will never, ever open—and this is one of those dishes for me.
But now the woe: I’m not convinced Willa and Phoebe will order this dish in that imaginary restaurant. We’ve made it before and they always did okay with it. Even when we made it Sunday night, they were doing great at the beginning—first eating spoonfuls of the “soup,” then moving on to chick peas, the “sausage,” some spinach, and the fish, then actually eating some of those things at the same time even. But some dark cloud suddenly moved over our table and we went from celebratory chanting of their names after eating each bite to our own version of Bloody Sunday in the span of around 60 seconds. When it was all over the meal was finished with two bananas (each) and one very mopey dad-cook.
It was probably just being overtired again, and I won’t write this one off just yet. We’ve cooked enough meals for them now to know that some days they work and some days they don’t. But Sunday night’s meltdown was so harsh and complete that this post is spawning a new, cheeky, “adults only” tag (I’m sure this link will be well-populated soon enough). If you are trying it out and have kids, maybe save it instead for a nice date-night meal the next time the kids are staying at their grandparents. Otherwise, if you are looking for a simple but elegant meal for your next dinner party, try this one out. The adults will approve.
- For the Stew
- 1 15-oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed (see note)
- 1 tsp. Sherry Vinegar
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 3 oz cured Spanish Chorizo, small dice (I use two links of the small Palacio chorizos)
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
- 2 piquillo peppers, brunoise
- 1/4 c. Dry Sherry
- 2 c. low-salt chicken stock (or half chicken/half fish stock if you are feeling fancy; see note)
- 5 oz fresh baby spinach (the standard clamshell sold in most supermarkets)
- S&P to taste
- For the Fish
- 1-1/2 lbs. wild-caught cod, or other flaky, thick fish
- Kosher salt
- 1 tsp. Piment d'Espelette
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1/4 c. plain bread crumbs
- In a small food processor, purée 2 Tbsp. of the chickpeas with the sherry vinegar, kosher salt, and 1/2 Tbsp. of the olive oil. Set aside. Don't skip this step, it will add body to the stew later.
- In a 4 qt pot over medium heat, add the remaining oil and and the chorizo. Sauté for 5 or so minutes, stirring, until the chorizo becomes crisp. Add the garlic and sauté until it begins to brown.
- Add the sherry wine. Simmer off the alcohol. Add the remaining chick peas, piquillo peppers, chicken stock and reserved bean puree and return to simmer and give it a stir. Allow to reduce down for ten minutes. (You can do the stew steps to this point several hours in advance, if you want).
- While the stew is simmering, divide your fish into four portions (if cooking for kids, this amount usually yields an extra piece which can serve as lunch the following day). Place the pieces on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Light your oven broiler.
- Season your fish with an aggressive amount of kosher salt and the Piment d'Espelette. Rub the olive oil over the fish, then evenly sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the fish. You'll want the breadcrumbs to soak up a little of the oil to prevent burning and even cooking.
- Just prior to cooking the fish and with stew at a simmer, add in all the spinach. When the spinach has fully wilted, season to taste (including more vinegar, if it needs some bright notes).
- Place the fish under the broiler and broil for around 8 minutes. The cooking time will depend on how thick your fish is. Monitor it every few minutes to make sure the breadcrumbs are not burning.
- Divide the stew into four shallow bowls, and place the fish on top.
- Since we're trying to cook this meal relatively quickly, yes: I use canned beans and chicken stock from a box. My imaginary restaurant would start with dry beans and use homemade stock, of course. If you really want to kick it up a notch, you can too. Since it's an imaginary restaurant, you might as well finish the stew with a nice pat of butter swirled into it as well.
- If you can't find Piment d'Espelette you can substitute a little paprika and black or cayenne pepper instead. Similarly, you can use any roasted red pepper in lieu of the piquillo pepper, but the piquillo is worth finding if you don't have it on hand.