Growing up in a Catholic family, I have long been accustomed to the custom of abstaining from eating meat on Ash Wednesday and Fridays during Lent, and I know that many of my Protestant friends also follow this tradition.

When I was young, we had limited options for fish and seafood in this area, and outside the summer months cod was a common fish in our home on Lenten Fridays. We always called it by its Norwegian name, torsk, and my mother would serve it with individual ramekins of hot drawn butter for dipping.

Nowadays, we have a wider variety of seafood available in Fargo-Moorhead, but torsk still remains a favorite of mine during Lent. This firm and flaky white fish has a pleasantly mild flavor that makes it easy to eat and versatile to prepare. Cod is an excellent source of lean protein, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12, and is more affordable than other white fish like sea bass or halibut.

For this occasion, I wanted to try something different than drawn butter with our cod, and a recipe for a red onion and caper vinaigrette that we served years ago at Sarello’s came to mind. Although we used to serve this sauce with breaded veal cutlets, I’d always thought it would be a great pairing with fish.

The vinaigrette can be served chilled or at room temperature (my preference), and is best enjoyed when the fish is hot from the oven. You can make it up to a week in advance, and at least two to three hours before serving, which helps the red onions to mellow and lose their spicy bite. We use three egg yolks for this recipe, and you can buy pasteurized eggs if you’re not comfortable using regular eggs.

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Tony purchased Alaskan cod from the seafood counter at our local grocery store, where it was sold as one whole side. There can be some bones between the larger top half and the bottom when it’s presented this way, so he recommends using your hand to find the bones, and then a sharp knife to carve out the bones and the flesh surrounding them. You can also ask your butcher or fishmonger to do this for you.

A typical serving portion for fish is about 4 or 5 ounces, and you can expect to get three to four servings from an average side of cod. Tony removed the bones and then dredged the fillets in flour mixed with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and a ½ teaspoon of black pepper, evenly coating both sides. If you prefer more breading on your fish, follow this step by dipping the fish in an egg wash and then a generous dredging of breadcrumbs or crushed crackers.

Next, in a frying pan over medium heat he browned the fillets on both sides in vegetable oil, about one minute on each side until just lightly golden. This step creates a seal that helps the fish retain its moisture while baking.

He transferred the fillets to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (for easy cleanup) and baked them in a 400-degree oven, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes. When ready, the inside of the fish should be opaque in color, and the top of the fillet will start to loosen and gently flake apart.

To serve, place the fish fillets on a serving platter or individual plates and generously pour the vinaigrette over the top. This sauce would also work well with salmon, tuna and swordfish. Welcome to the season of Lent.

Red Onion & Caper Vinaigrette

Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:

1/3 cup olive oil

2/3 cup vegetable oil

3 egg yolks

3 ounces white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

¼ cup red onion, minced

¼ cup capers, drained

Directions:

Combine the egg yolks, vinegar, honey, mustard, onions and capers in a stainless steel bowl and whisk together well. Slowly add the oils in a very slow stream to the mixture, while continuing to whisk. Place a damp towel underneath the bowl to keep the bowl stationary.

This will also enable you to keep your hands free so you can hold the whisk in one hand while pouring the oils with the other. Once the oil has been incorporated add salt and pepper to taste. The vinaigrette can be served chilled or at room temperature. Before serving, whisk again until all ingredients are well-blended, then spoon approximately 1 tablespoon over each fillet.

To store: Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Tony’s Tips:

  • Great with flaky white fish like cod, sea bass or halibut, and also good with swordfish, tuna and salmon.
  • Dressing is also great over breaded veal, pork or chicken cutlets.

“Home With the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 11-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at dine@sarellos.com. All previous recipes can be found at http:// thelostitalian.areavoices.com.