Seasonal eats: Late winter comfort food from Chef Ben Baird

 

 

By mid-March, winter in Ottawa can feel like an endurance contest. An advantage to the length of the season is that you get more time to savour fall and winter foods.  And there are a lot more of them than we think, from Brussels sprouts and squash to beef, venison and game.

The next two Earthward posts will feature recipes from Chef Ben Baird of the Urban Pear for a variety of late-fall produce — celery root, kale, fennel, tomatoes – that he brings together with coconut-crusted cod. The result is a delicious, comforting late-winter meal for two that takes about 1.5 hours to prepare, start to finish.

Rather than having all four recipes in one post, I’m including two this week: for the cod and for the tomato fennel broth. The final two – celery root purée and winter kale, mushroom and green onion stir-fry – will follow next week.  

About the recipes

Chef Baird designed the four dishes to be served together, but points out that they’re versatile enough to go with many other things. For example, the celery root purée and the kale stir-fry would work well with any grilled protein, he says, even “some nicely marinated tofu.”

About the chef

Ben Baird is chef and co-owner at The Urban Pear restaurant on Second Avenue and the Ottawa STREAT Gourmet food truck, one of 18 new food trucks and carts approved by the City of Ottawa last month. Starting in May, Ottawa STREAT Gourmet will serve fresh, local, seasonal fare on the north side of Queen, west of O’Connor.

Baird was trained at the Stratford Chefs School and won bronze at the Gold Medal Plates competition in 2009 and 2007.

About the ingredients

The cod Chef Baird used in his recipe was sustainably caught, frozen at sea and purchased from the Whalesbone Sustainable Oyster & Fish Supply.  For the broth, he used tomatoes that he stewed and jarred last fall, but says any canned Canadian tomatoes would do.  

Coconut crusted cod

8 oz cod, fresh or thawed from frozen

1 egg

2 tbsp milk

½ cup unsweetened coconut

¼ cup bread crumb (panko is ideal)

¼ cup all purpose flour

salt and pepper

oil for frying

Cut cod into about pieces of about 2 oz each and keep on paper towel in fridge so that fish is nice and dry.  Beat milk and egg and season with salt and pepper. Mix bread crumb, coconut, salt and pepper. Add salt and pepper to the flour as well.

If you’re preparing other dishes to go with this, make sure you’ve finished them before frying the fish.

Heat 2 inches of oil to 350°F in a large, fairly deep pan. Dredge cod pieces in seasoned flour to coat, dip them into the egg and then into the coconut mix.  Gently place the fish in the hot oil and fry in small batches. When the fish is a dark golden color on one side, turn it and fry on the other side.  Place cooked fish in a 200°F degree oven while you fry more.

Remove fish from the oil, place on fresh paper towel and season with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately. 

Tomato fennel broth

500 ml can of Canadian tomatoes or equivalent, with juice

½ onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tbsp whole fennel seed

3 whole star anise

dash of chili flakes

1 cup dry white wine

3 tbsp cold butter

1 tsp fresh grated horseradish

¼ lemon

In a medium saucepan, sauté the chopped onion until lightly colored. Add garlic, fennel seed, star anise and chili flakes and lightly until aromatic. Deglaze pan with white wine and reduce fluid by half before adding the tomatoes.  Bring to a simmer and turn off.  Taste your broth; if it’s too acidic, add a small amount of sugar or honey.

Using a hand blender, pulse to break up the tomatoes (this will affect the amount of broth you get).   Strain broth into a small sauce pan using a fine mesh strainer or clean cheese cloth.  Return broth to medium heat and reduce further.

When you’re happy with the broth, slowly add butter, whisking constantly.  Finish with fresh grated horseradish and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.  Season with salt and pepper. 

What are your favourite late-winter dishes?

 

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2 Responses to “Seasonal eats: Late winter comfort food from Chef Ben Baird”

  1. Oakmannz says:

    What is the sauce being used in the above photo? Great to know how the fish is cooked but what about the stuff that goes with it? Photo looks great. Any advice on how to make the complete dish?

    • Valerie says:

      Thanks for your question. If you scroll down, you should see the recipe for the tomato fennel broth. As for the vegetables that go with the fish and broth, as I mentioned in the post, they’ll be up this week – actually in a few minutes! If you try one or all of the dishes, let me know how they turn out!

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