Gather your family and enjoy the festive fun. This delicious Christmas dinner will make your stomach and your heart happy. The delicate flavour of cod is wonderfully paired with lemon bulgur, velvety warm butter sauce, and fennel salad.
I never published so complicated recipes before, where several dishes are paired in a perfect combination. Last few years I’m really interested in the art of food pairing. This is absolutely amazing how some dishes and wines complement each other creating match, made in heaven. Such as fish, fennel salad, bulgur, and Beurre Blanc sauce. Exploring the art of food pairing, you’ll be able to take every meal to the next level. This includes your receptors training, which is also a very important thing. Planning a dinner is essentially a balancing act of colors, textures, temperatures, and flavors on the plate, along with the season.
Keep the holidays light with a table full of classic but pretty healthy recipes. Christmas in New Zealand is celebrated on 25 December, which is summer in the Southern Hemisphere – this makes a lot of what we experience over our festive season quite different to other parts of the world. This is the reason why I chose the fish for my festive table. If I had to choose a favourite fish in New Zealand, it would likely be blue cod. Blue cod’s delicate texture gives it that ‘melt in your mouth’ experience. The flavor of this fish is mild and slightly sweet.
If you are looking forward to summer fishing, you probably know: nothing beats freshly caught fish. Snapper, tarakihi or sea bass could be used in this recipe.
Beurre blanc is a butter-based emulsified sauce that’s perfect with fish and seafood. This is a perfect example of French nouvelle cuisine, this sauce emphasizes the freshness of the ingredients and the presentation of the dishes.
Serve the Beurre Blanc immediately or hold it. To hold the sauce for up to 2 hours, place the bowl in a warm place in the kitchen, perhaps near the stove. If the sauce starts to thicken, it can be thinned with a tablespoon or two of hot white wine or water. The sauce can separate by either overheating or cooling, so be gentle. This reminds me Cinderella story, where Cinderella carriage is turning out into a pumpkin. But it’s worth it. Beurre Blank sauce will take only 15 minutes of your time, I would recommend practicing this recipe first, then make it right before Christmass dinner.
Is anybody olive oil lovers here? Nothing beats fresh crusty bread dipped in new season EVOO and sprinkled with a pinch of Maldon salt! Love it with a glass of good wine. These simple products, when put together, represent a solid identity for Italy.
I’m absolutely in love with NZ olive oil, especially in oil with a grassy peppery flavour. It’s not easy to find in supermarkets, I recommend to visit local farmer’s markets. Keep your eye on a pressing date. The shelf life of olive oil is less than a year, don’t forget to store it properly, room temperature, away from direct light. A fresh good quality olive oil will always taste “clean” and “fresh” on your palate, and never leave a waxy residue when swallowed. The benefits of olive oil are many. Olive oil is a most digestible of all the edible fats.
- Blue Cod, gutted, scales removed (weight about 800g – 1 kg)
- 1 lemon
- a few sprigs of parsley
- 1 sprig of tarragon
- a few sprigs of fennel (green part)
- olive oil
- pinch of celery seeds
- Maldon salt (or flaky Kosher salt)
- freshly ground black pepper
+ Two big sheets of baking paper, cooking twine
- 1 cup bulgur
- 1 1/2 cup vegetable stock
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
- juice of 1/2 small lemon
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- black pepper
Beurre Blanc Sauce (Hot White Butter Sauce):
- 2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
- 2 Tbsp white wine (I use Chardonnay)
- 1 Tbsp minced shallot
- 3 whole black pepper
- 125 g butter, cut into small cubes and well chilled
- lemon juice as taste
- 1 fennel bulb + some greens to garnish
- 1/2 green apple (Granny Smith)
- a handful of NZ yams (Oxalis tuberosa)
- 1 cup toasted walnuts
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- Maldon salt
- lemon juice
- Olive oil
+ grilled lemon to serve
*Feel free double/triple ingredients if you would like to make a dinner for a big family.
Fish. Preheat the oven to 180C (350C). Place fish in the center of a big parchment paper sheet. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with oil. Arrange lemon slices and herbs down the length of fish, sprinkle with celery seeds.
Bring parchment paper sides up over mixture; double fold top and sides to seal, making packets. Secure the ends by tying cooking twine around it. Be sure the paper is sealed snugly so that steam won’t escape during cooking. Place the packet on an oven rack and roast until fish is just cooked through, 20 to 30 minutes (depending on fish size). Carefully unwrap the packet and transfer fish to a serving dish.
Bulgur. Toast bulgur in olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring, 5 minutes. Add hot vegetable stock, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, and black pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low; cover and simmer until the water is absorbed about 12 minutes.
Fennel salad. Cut fennel bulb, apple and yams into thin strips (Julienne cut) using a knife or Mandoline slicer (blades for Julienne). Chop some fennel fronds and add to the salad. Season the salad with Maldon salt, drizzle with fresh EVOO and lemon juice. Sprinkle with toasted walnuts and dried cranberry.
Beurre Blanc Sauce (White Butter Sauce). Place the vinegar, wine, shallot, and peppercorns in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to the boil. Boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes or until the liquid is reduced to about 2 tablespoons. Strain the vinegar mixture through a fine sieve into a small frying pan. Turn the heat down to a low setting and whisk in the butter one piece at a time, allowing each piece to melt and homogenise before adding the next (it is also a good idea to occasionally take the pan off the heat, then returning it when it is becoming too cool.) Once all the butter has been used the sauce should be pale and have a thin, custard-like consistency. Keep warm. Serve the Beurre Blanc immediately or hold it. To hold the sauce for up to 2 hours, place the bowl in a warm place in the kitchen, perhaps near the stove. If the sauce starts to thicken, it can be thinned with a tablespoon or two of hot white wine or water.
Serve the fish warm with bulgur and fennel salad. Spoon the sauce over the fish and garnish with charred lemon.