Cod with Ginger-Basil Butter
Yankee’s January-February issue features one of my favorite recipes: a dish of steamed cod (cooked in foil packets) served over fragrant rice with a deliciously simple ginger-basil sauce.
The sauce, made with butter, basil, ginger, star anise, cumin, and chile, comes from a Southeast Asian vegetarian stew that my friend and colleague, Molly Watson, developed when we were both working at Sunset Magazine. It occurred to me that it might work equally well over a meaty white fish like cod, haddock, or halibut, and testing proved the hunch. Serve it over fragrant rice, lightly perfumed with cumin seed, cinnamon, and turmeric. It’s a bright, cheering, warming, and addictive combination. In fact, when I prepared the fish today on WSFB’s “Better Connecticut” show, the cast and audience couldn’t stop noshing. Given that television personalities are constantly watching what they eat, this was high praise.
Cod with Ginger-Basil Butter on Fragrant Rice
Total time: 50 minutes; hands-on time: 40 minutes
Yield: 6 servings
This is the ultimate winter warmer, a fragrant dish of cod served over rice seasoned with cumin and turmeric. Served with a butter sauce made with ginger, basil, and star anise, it’s a heady combination. But the flavor of the fish still shines through. Note: There’s a lot of confusion about cod stocks and whether cod is an eco-friendly option right now. Cape Ann Fresh Catch buys cod only from boats working within NOAA guidelines. If sustainable cod isn’t available, substitute another firm, white fish, such as Pacific cod, halibut, haddock, or pollock.
For the rice:
- 1-1/4 cups jasmine or basmati rice
- 2-1/2 cups water
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
Put rice into a 3- to 4-quart pot with water, cinnamon, cumin seeds, turmeric, and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat; then reduce heat to low and simmer until all the water has been absorbed, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat and let rice sit, covered, 5 more minutes.
For the fish:
- 2 pounds cod fillets, cut into 6 equal portions (see “Note”)
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, divided
- 12 slices unpeeled fresh ginger
- 4 fresh basil stems (with leaves), each cut into 3 pieces
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter
- 6 whole star anise
- 1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled, and minced or grated
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 serrano chile, halved and thinly sliced (for less heat, remove seeds)
- 10 large fresh basil leaves, chopped
Meanwhile, set out 6 square pieces of aluminum foil, each about 12 inches wide. Lay a piece of fish on each one. Sprinkle with a bit of salt. To each packet add 2 slices ginger and 2 pieces basil stems. Seal each packet.
Bring about 1 inch of water to a boil in a large pot fitted with a steamer. Add fish packets to steamer, reduce heat to a simmer, and steam until fish is opaque, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat.
Meanwhile, in a small pot, melt butter until it sizzles. Add star anise, ginger, cumin, sugar, chile, and basil. Simmer 3 minutes.
Divide rice among bowls. Top with fish; then spoon butter sauce over fish.
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