Pancetta-Wrapped Cod with Vanilla Recipe
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For the cod:
- a small, boneless cod fillet
- thin slices of pancetta, about 5 per piece of cod
- vanilla oil
- olive oil, butter
- splash of brandy
For the veg (one portion):
- 1 carrot, diced
- 4 or 5 shallots, halved
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and whole
- fresh thyme leaves, a scattering
- olive oil, butter
How to make Pancetta-Wrapped Cod with Vanilla
This is a layman's version of a dish I had at a wonderful restaurant called Salt in Tokyo. There, I had a dish which was pancetta-wrapped cod with vanilla, accompanied by a roasted fig. It was absolutely, mind-blowingly delicious. I tried to recreate it at home, but for this recipe I omitted the figs as I've never cooked with them before and I totally destroyed them. What remained - the fish and the veg, was more than satisfactory, however.
The secret is in the vanilla, which doesn't lend too much flavour, but scents the dish with a welcoming, warming sweet smell, and the contrast between the salty pancetta and sweet, pan-roasted vegetables. I used carrots and shallots here, but really any veg that has a natural sweetness would work well. I think this would be equally great with a pumpkin or swede mash.
Lay a piece of cling film down on a flat surface. Line up your strips of pancetta so that they are just overlapping slightly. Season the cod sparingly - you won't need too much salt as the pancetta is already salty, but a good grinding of black pepper wouldn't go amiss. Lay the cod on top of the pancetta and dot with vanilla oil. Fresh vanilla pod scrapings would be even better I imagine. Carefully wrap the parcel using the cling film (a similar technique if you've ever made maki-zushi). Wrap it evenly - if it's wrapped evenly, it will cook evenly. Store it wrapped in the fridge until you are ready - this will help it keep its shape.
Heat some oil and butter in a pan and begin to roast off your carrots, shallots and garlic. These will be cooking for a while on a low heat so you don't need to blanche the carrots first. Season with salt and pepper and leave to bubble on the lowest heat possible.
In another pan, you need to seal your cod parcel. Remove the pancetta parcel from the cling film. Heat some oil (and a little butter if you so please) to a fairly high heat, and let your parcel sit on the hot oil for a few seconds on each side. Splash a bit of brandy on it and let it sizzle. When you have sealed the parcel, you can do one of two things - transfer it to a preheated oven to cook through, or turn the heat right down and put the lid on the pan. I did the latter (for lack of an oven) and it turned out just fine.
Your vegetables should be getting a little colour on them. Toss in some fresh thyme leaves. Remove the garlic from the pan - it has done its job now.
After a few further minutes (6 - 7 is enough) of cooking, the cod parcel should be cooked through. Remove it from the pan and let it rest for a minute or so.
Spoon the veg onto a plate. Decorate with a thyme sprig if you have one left over. Slice the cod diagonally, breath in the sweet fragrance of the vanilla, roasted onion and thyme wafting up from the plate bfore you, drizzle with olive oil and serve.
Don't throw away those garlic cloves that are now probably all soft and browned from the pan. Take a slice of baguette, mash a clove into it, scatter with the thyme leaves left in the veg pan and drizzle with the cod pan juices. Magical.