A Delicious Recipe For Cod and Tomato Sauce with Arborio Rice
As we were leaving the Jersey shore after a wonderful vacation with my family, we picked up a couple cases of fresh Jersey Beefsteak tomatoes. I figured I would make a big pot of sauce with these glorious tomatoes that are only available fresh for such a short time in the summer.
I've done this before but must have forgotten how much work is involved peeling the skins off, coring them, and removing the seeds before using them to cook. I'll write a post about this experience but as good as Jersey tomatoes are for slicing and serving with mozzarella cheese, I'm not sure my sauce was any better than when I make a big pot with quality, canned plum tomatoes.
Hmmm, I sense a taste test in my future.
Cod with Fresh Tomato Sauce
While reading my September edition of Food & Wine, I came across this recipe for cooking cod fillets right in a fresh tomato sauce and serving it with Arborio rice. The article was about what cookbook author Jessica Theroux learned while traveling around Italy looking for a way to "learn about food, life and perfect pasta" for her cookbook, Cooking with Italian Grandmothers.
This recipe was inspired from that journey. And since I had a big container of fresh Jersey shore tomato sauce in the refrigerator that I needed to use, so I thought I would give this a try.
The recipe says it takes 30 minutes of active cooking and a total of 1 hour. If you already have a sauce made, this qualifies as a Reluctant Gourmet "quick & easy" recipe and takes just 30 minutes.
If you don't have homemade sauce made with Jersey Beefsteak tomatoes lying around, you could also substitute your own favorite commercial brand or doctor up some plain canned tomato sauce to save time. I used my sauce, but next time I want to try their recipe. It looks easy enough to make and includes saffron threads.
Let's talk about Arborio Rice
Arborio Rice is stubby, short-grain rice that I typically use for making risotto. It is said to have originally come from Italy and is named after the town of Arborio in the Po Valley, but I have recently read that it is now grown outside of Italy.
Because of its higher starch content, the grains tend to be more creamy and sticky when cooked thus making it perfect for blending with other ingredients. The distinguishable "bite" comes from a defect called chalk where, according to Cook's Illustrated, "During maturation, the starch structures at the grain's core deform, making for a firm, toothy center when cooked."
In this recipe, you don't cook the Arborio rice like you normally do for making risotto or even like you are most likely accustomed to when preparing long grain rice.
You cook it like it was some form of pasta: start with a large pot of water, add seasonings, boil the rice, and then drain when cooked. This is a first for me but it works, as you will see.
Substitutions and Omissions
As usual, I didn't have all the ingredients on hand so I made one substitution. I used lemon zest instead of orange zest, and I left one out, the fresh parsley that was called for.
I don't think the lemon for orange was a big deal, but my photo of the dish would have looked much better if sprinkled with chopped parsley.
I also didn't follow the directions carefully and cut my lemon zest into thin strips and not 1-inch wide strips as the recipe calls for. This made removal more difficult at the end when you were supposed to discard them.
So, in this case, do as I say and not as I do: Read The Recipe Carefully More Than Once!
This dish is so easy to make, and I'm already thinking of some alternatives. Not always is a quick meal a good meal, but this really tastes great. Give it a try, I think you'll like it, too.
Cod with Tomato Sauce and Arborio Rice
For the Sauce
For the Arborio Rice
- zest of orange cut into 1-inch wide strips, plus some finely grated zest for garnish. (I substituted lemon)
- 5 bay leaves
- 3 whole cloves
- 1 cup Arborio rice
For the Fish:
- 1½ pounds fresh cod or halibut -
- Chopped parsley for garnish
- Heat up a large fry/sauté/skillet until hot. Add ¼ cup of the oil and let it get hot but not smoking.
- Add the garlic and crushed red peppers and cook until the garlic is golden but not burnt, about 1 minute.
- Add the tomatoes and saffron and cook over medium heat until the tomatoes begin to soften. This should take about 5 minutes.
- Add the oregano and season with salt and pepper.
- Let this cook over medium-low heat for about 30 minutes until the sauce breaks down and starts to thicken up. Be sure to stir and break up the tomatoes with your wooden spoon.
Prepare the Rice
- While the sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
- Add the orange zest strips, bay leaves, cloves, Arborio rice and 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the water. Cook the rice for about 15 minutes until it is al dente.
- Drain and remove the zest strips, bay leaves and cloves.
- Place the rice back into the pot and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Cook the Fish
- When the sauce is complete, place the cod into the tomato sauce and cook (I guess this is braising) until the fish begins to flake and become opaque throughout. This takes 10 to 14 minutes. Be sure to turn the fish after about 7 minutes.