The sweet taste and flaky texture of sablefish are complemented by its poaching liquid: wonderfully fruity olive oil. Poached at an unusually low temperature, the flavors of this fish and its accompaniments meld together, creating a depth that is unattainable otherwise. This ensures slow, even cooking, as well as retained moisture and deeply imparted flavors. Poaching fish in olive oil adds yet another dimension: The lemon practically melts, while the crunch of the Spanish almonds is enhanced. Unpretentious and patient, this dish is a nod to the typically Spanish (and Gilded Fork) way of cooking.
2½ pounds sablefish fillets, 1-inch thick (You may substitute any firm white fish. Use what’s freshest)
2 large lemons, thinly sliced crosswise
¼ cup fresh lemon thyme
½ cup Marcona almonds, roughly chopped
2 cups extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt to taste (about 3 teaspoons)
Freshly ground black pepper (about ½ teaspoon)
[Chef’s Note: Sablefish is also known as black cod. If you do not have Spanish Marcona almonds, feel free to use slivered almonds or to chop peeled almonds. In addition, we would suggest using a green, fruity olive oil for poaching, preferably a Spanish one with lemon undertones.]
Preheat the oven to 250° F. Sprinkle the fish with the salt and pepper, allowing it to sit for a few minutes at room temperature. In one layer, place half of the lemon slices in an 8-inch glass baking dish. Sprinkle half of the thyme over the lemon. Arrange the fish in one layer on top of the lemon and thyme, and top with the remaining thyme, lemon and the chopped almonds. Pour the olive oil into the dish, carefully preventing the toppings from falling off the fish. Bake until the fish is cooked through and flaky, about 1 to 1¼ hours.
When plating, lift the fillets out of the olive oil, leaving behind the bottom level of lemons but plating the fish with the top layer of lemons and the almonds. Spoon a few tablespoons of the poaching olive oil over the fish. We suggest serving this dish with simple rice pilaf or an herbed couscous.
Recipe by Sandra Di Capua
Photo by Mark Tafoya