Spring Pea Fricassée with Local Ling Cod from the Inn at Newport Ranch
I don’t know about you, but I tend to choose which dish to order at a restaurant (or make at home) based on how I imagine all the ingredients tasting together. It’s a reasonable strategy in most cases, but a trip to the Mendocino Coast last spring taught me that some dishes are vastly greater than the sums of their parts. That’s especially true when the ingredients are at their peak and the chef is skilled.
The Inn at Newport Ranch is a 2,000-acre coastal cattle ranch known not only for its gracious hospitality, but also for its focus on what it likes to call “North Coast seasonally inspired ranch cuisine.” Thanks a prime location overlooking the Pacific Ocean in the middle of a fertile food and wine community, the inn grows most of its own organic produce, sources fish and meat from local purveyors, and showcases wines from local vintners. So when I saw local ling cod paired with spring peas from their garden, I had to try it.
I couldn’t have predicted how delightfully the sweetness of fresh-picked peas would meld with the distinctive mild brininess of the just-caught ling cod, each in its own way subtly bringing forth the essence of the season and a sense of place. A slightly tart herbed crème fraiche was the perfect foil. It was one of the more elegant dishes I’ve ever tasted, so when I was looking recently for something elevated to serve to dinner guests, I decided I’d try to re-create it in my kitchen. From the homemade crème fraiche to the fumét made from fresh fish bones, I stayed as true to the original masterpiece as I could, with results surprisingly close to what I tasted last spring in Mendocino. I wouldn’t look down on you for cutting a few corners (like using store-bought crème fraiche or fish stock from a carton), but part of the beauty of this dish is the care taken in creating it. Either way, you’ll no doubt you’ll wow friends and family with this recipe.
Spring Pea Fricassée with Ling Cod
Courtesy of Inn at Newport Ranch
Makes 4 Servings
For the Crème Fraiche:
- 2 cups heavy cream
- ¼ cup buttermilk
- 10 basil leaves
- 5 mint leaves
For the Fumét:
- 1 ling cod carcass
- 4 ounces leek, chopped
- 4 ounces carrot, chopped
- 4 ounces celery, chopped
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
- 1 ounce parsley
- 3 gloves garlic, smashed
- 1 tablespoon ginger, grated
- 2 tablespoon salt
For the Fricassée:
- 1 cup whole spring peas, thinly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup mirepoix (2 ounces diced carrot, 2 ounces diced celery, 4 ounces diced onion)
- 1/2 cup fumét
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 2 tablespoon butter to sweat the mirepoix
- 1 tablespoon butter to finish
For the Ling Cod:
- 1 6-ounce piece of ling cod
- About 3 cups bouillon (enough to cover the fish)
- 2 ounces watercress
- 1 tablespoon smoked chili oil
- 2 ounces pickled mirepoix
- 3 pea blossoms
- Sea salt to taste
Start this recipe at least 24 hours in advance to prepare the creme fraiche and the fumét.
Créme Fraîche: Mix cream, buttermilk, basil, and mint in a glass jar. Cover tightly with cheesecloth and a rubber band and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours. Remove the herbs, refrigerate mixture until cold, then whip with whisk attachment until stiff peaks form.
Fumét: Put all ingredients in a stock pot and cover with ice. Turn on low heat until ice is melted and turn off just as it reaches a simmer. Strain and reserve liquid. Discard solids.
Fricassée: Cook peas, garlic, and mirepoix in butter on low heat, until onions are translucent. Add wine and fumét and cook the mixture until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Add pieces of cold butter and rotate the pan slowly as they melt. Set aside.
Fish: Poach the cod in bouillon until done, about 6 to 7 minutes.
Plating: Toss the watercress with vinaigrette. Put fricassée down first, fish second, then pipe three quarter-sized dots of the herbed creme fraiche around the plate, place a blossom on each. Top the fish with watercress and pickled mire poix. Drizzle chili oil over everything, then sprinkle sea salt over the fish.