Pan-Roasted Cod

Pan-Roasted Cod

Cod was a bad idea. Not because it didn’t turn out well—it was gorgeous, clean and sweet and bright and simple. But because Samuel kitty wound up eating most of it.

Let me backtrack. It was Saturday, farmers’ market day in our neighborhood, and that very morning I’d hit my Weight Watchers goal (which, hooray, but it turns out isn’t quite low enough so I’m still going). To celebrate, I had an extremely decadent breakfast* that involved some truly wonderful thick-cut bacon, which translated into a desire for something virtuous for dinner.

Fish. I wanted fish. The problem with fish, though, is that Stephen hates it. Yes, he’ll happily eat Spicy Sauteed Tilapia with Olives and Grape Tomatoes, but there are only so many times a person can eat (or cook) that. Plus, you won’t find farmed tilapia at the farmers’ market—it’s not exactly fresh off the boat. So I winged it. Cod has long been among my favorites, so I thought I might be able to seduce Stephen into becoming a fish-eater. I imagined it prepared my favorite way, seasoned and quickly browned on the stovetop, then finished in a hot oven. A squeeze of lemon, and you’re in heaven. Stephen agreed to try it, so I bought a sizable fillet. For a whopping twenty dollars.

When I got it home, I double-checked on Seafood Watch for sustainability, etc. Doh! Atlantic cod from the U.S. is horribly, scarily overfished. Major bad. Returning it wasn’t an option, though, so I forged ahead. Come dinner time, I cut the fillet into two-and-a-half portions, thinking I’d make fish sticks for Harry with the smallest piece. He likes Dr. Praeger’s, so maybe for once I’d get lucky…

While Harry’s fish sticks baked, I cooked the grown-up fish. When everything was ready, I summoned my dear family to the table.

Disaster. Stephen dug into his cod with gusto, god bless him, but one bite was enough. I was disappointed, but I can’t fault him—there are plenty of foods I don’t like. The kid, though, was a different story. He wouldn’t even taste a fish stick. When he realized dessert wasn’t coming without at least a college try, he took a single bite, chewed, and burst into tears. That fish stick was spit out in a millisecond, and I’m embarrassed to admit I left the table on the verge of tears myself. I just want to enjoy a stinking meal with my family that isn’t hot dogs or macaroni! Is that too much to ask?

A few minutes later I returned to the kitchen—Stephen and Harry had moved into another room—and found Samuel kitty sniffing around hopefully. Since I can’t stand reheated, leftover fish, I flaked off a good section of Stephen’s mostly-untouched portion and put it in Samuel’s bowl. That was one happy cat, let me tell you.

Please, don’t let my sad tale deter you from making Pan-Roasted Cod yourself. It really is something special, for virtually no effort. If you can’t find some cod that’s sustainable, use another firm white fish that is.

* I know, I know, celebrating one’s weight loss with a decadent meal is pretty messed up. That’s why I went with breakfast on weigh-in day: I counted the points and adjusted the rest of my day appropriately.

Pan-Roasted Cod
Serves 2
Weight Watchers: Technically, this is 8 points per serving—but that assumes you eat all the oil that’s used. When I cook this, I typically have at least a tablespoon left over, which brings it down to 6 points.

Two 6-ounce fillets of cod or other firm white fish
Salt & pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
Lemon wedges, for serving

  1. Preheat oven to 425°.
  2. When it’s hot, put a large oven-proof skillet over high heat. While it’s heating, season both sides of the cod with salt and pepper. When the pan is hot, add the oil and heat until it’s just about smoking; this will help keep the fish from sticking. Add the cod and brown on both sides—if your oil’s hot enough it should happen pretty quickly, in just a minute or two. (In the picture above you’ll see I took mine off the heat a bit too soon.)
  3. Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook another 8 to 9 minutes, until the fish is opaque all the way through.
  4. Serve with lemon wedges. Yum.