Court Bouillon. Sounds so sophisticated, doesn’t it? According to my 1961 edition of Larousse Gastronomique, court bouillon is “an aromatic liquid in which meat, fish, and various vegetables are cooked,” in other words, fancy salted water! (Ah the French, they make even the most mundane seem so elegant.)
Cod poached in court bouillon is a classic French dish, particularly in Provence. My Provencal sweetheart introduced me to this way of cooking cod, and I can’t get enough of it. It’s easy, fast, and the fish is perfectly and subtly flavored with the poaching liquid which has been infused with bay leaves, garlic, salt, and olive oil.
I’ve been serving it with yukon gold potatoes that have been boiled in the same fish poaching liquid, with a little dash of saffron for color.
Saffron-hued potatoes are traditionally served in Provence with this court bouillon poached cod. You can make them at the same time in a separate pot in salted water (just add a pinch of saffron to the water), or you can make them in the water you used to poach the fish, while the fish rests, covered. The potatoes cook quickly (about 15 minutes for Yukon Golds or waxy potatoes). If you cook the potatoes in the poaching liquid, the fish will still be warm when the potatoes are done, but not hot. Cod prepared this way is often served slightly warm.
As always with fish or seafood, pick the freshest possible at the market. The fish's flesh should glisten, it should not look tired or dry. It should have a fresh, not a fishy, smell.
- 2 quarts water
- 1 Tbsp salt
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 pounds cod fillets (or other firm white fish, not sole), cut to fit the pan
- Lemon for garnish
Optional side of saffron potatoes:
- 1 pound of Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks (peel on or off, your choice)
- Pinch of saffron
1 Put water, salt, garlic, bay leaves, and olive oil into 4 to 5 quart pot and bring to a hard boil. Boil for several minutes, to infuse the water with the bay leaves and garlic. You should be able to smell the aroma of the garlic.
2 Rinse the cod fillets and place them in the boiling water. Return the water to a simmer (this should take 2 to 3 minutes). Simmer for an additional 2 minutes, less or more depending on the thickness of the fillets. Using a slotted spoon, remove the fillets to a plate when they are almost cooked through. They should still be a little translucent in the center, because they will continue to cook in their residual heat as they sit on the plate. Cover with foil. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving, or if you are making the optional potatoes, let rest until the potatoes are done.
3 (Optional) Place a pinch of saffron in the water that was used to cook the fish. Add the potatoes and return the water to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork. Drain. Sprinkle potatoes with additional salt if desired.
Serve fish with a slice of lemon.