I’m a sucker for fried food. I can’t help it, no matter how hard I try. Aside from my waistline reminding me from time-to-time that moderation is the key to a long, healthy and happy life, nothing can stop me from frying up a batch of goodies when a craving for it kicks in.
Fried fish was something I experienced as a kid almost every Friday and I’ve been in love with it ever since. Over time, my palette began picking up a likeness for more than just the whiting that was used. Cod came into my life, and after recently buying a little too much of it for one dish, I decided to play around with the leftover pieces. The results were fantastic!
Lemon buttermilk cod bites are exactly what they sound like they are. Morsels of fresh cod seasoned and soaked briefly in lemon and buttermilk, dreaded in a flour and cornmeal mixture and fried until light and crispy. Paired with a creamy bacon-infused marinara dipping sauce, you will find these to be some of the most addicting nuggets you’ll ever put into your belly.
Lemon Buttermilk Cod Bites
with Bacon Marinara
(recipe serving size – 10-12 pieces)
For the cod:
1/2 lb cod, cut into 1- to 2-inch strips
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp parsley, finely chopped
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
1 small clove of garlic, finely minced
Coat the cod with the olive oil and spices and marinate for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
For the marinara dipping sauce:
1/4 lb grape tomatoes
1/4 cup red wine
1 tb creme fraiche (can substitute with marscapone or heavy cream)
1 tb olive oil
1 thick slice of bacon, cut into small strips
1/2 shallot, diced
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
1/4 tsp kosher salt plus 1/8 tsp
1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
1 small sprig of rosemary, finely chopped
In a small sauté pan, cook the bacon strips for 3-4 minutes over medium to medium-high heat, until crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan and drain all but 2 tsp of the oil. Add the shallots and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and season with a 1/4 tsp of salt and pepper. Cook for 1 minute, moving the tomatoes and onions around as so not to burn. Add the red wine. Cook for 2-3 minutes until wine reduces by a little more than half and the tomatoes have softened. Using a fork or a potato masher, gently crush the tomatoes in the pan. This will release their juices. Lower the heat slightly and add the garlic and rosemary. Simmer gently for another 3-4 minutes.
Scoop the grape tomatoes and all of the remnants resting in the pan into a small food processor. Add the creme fraiche (or marscapone or heavy cream) and the 1/8 tsp of salt into the processor and blend until smooth, roughly 15-20 seconds.
For the coating:
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup corn meal
1/2 cup of buttermilk
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp granulated garlic
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano
Roughly 1 cup of canola oil
2 tsp grated pecorino romano cheese
1 tb fresh chopped parsley for garnish
Heat oil in a medium-size skillet over medium to medium-high heat.
Pour the buttermilk and lemon juice over the marinated cod. While the fish rests in the wet batter, combine the dry ingredients and spices in another bowl.
Drop a pinch of flour into the hot oil. The oil is ready when the flour sizzles but does not burn. If the flour burns, the oil is too hot. Remove the pan from the heat for a minute or two, lower the flame slightly and return the pan to the heat. Test the oil again by dropping another pinch of flour into it.
Once the oil is ready, coat the lemon buttermilk-soaked cod in the dry mixture and drop the fish, one piece at a time, into the oil. Fry on each side for 2-3 minutes, until golden brown. Place the hot pieces of fish on a wire rack or paper towel to drain. Sprinkle the pecorino on the pieces while warm.
Bringing it all together:
Place the pieces of fish on a plate and garnish with the the parsley. Pour the dipping sauce into a small condiment dish and garnish with the pieces of crispy bacon. Serve while hot and enjoy!