Pan Simmered Pacific Black Cod

Have you ever tried pacific black cod (also known as sable fish)? It’s a delicate, fatty fish, sustainably fished, filled with good Omega-3s, and absolutely delicious. The Whole Foods in my neighborhood has been carrying it with regularity. Here is a beautifully simple way to prepare it, taught to me by my friend and avid fisherman Hank Shaw.

The fillets are simmered in a Japanese-style broth of sake, soy sauce, rice vinegar, oil, and ginger. While the fillets are cooking, you spoon the simmering sauce over the top of the fillets so that the top gets infused with the sauce as well. The fillets are then topped with toasted sesame seeds and thinly sliced green onions.

Hank brines his fillets first, to firm up the flesh before cooking. I could go either way with this. If you have time, brine the fish (instructions are in the notes to the recipe), if not, just be more careful with handling the cooked fish, as it is rather delicate.

If you have a favorite way of preparing Pacific black cod, please let us know about it in the comments!

Pacific Black Cod

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Pan Simmered Pacific Black Cod Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 3-4.

Pacific black cod (sablefish) have long pin bones along the sides of their fillets that are difficult to remove before the fish has been cooked. Once the fillets have been cooked, however, they are easily removed with tweezers or needle-nosed pliers.

Pacific black cod falls apart easily. If you want your result to be more firmly textured, brine the fillets in a salt brine of 1/4 cup of salt to 1 quart of water plus 2 cups of crushed ice for 20 minutes.

Sea bass fillets also work with this recipe. Sea bass fillets are thicker though, so you would want to simmer them on both sides for several minutes until cooked through.

Ingredients

  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds skinless black cod fillets
  • 1/4 cup sake
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup canola, rice bran or other neutral oil
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
  • Dark sesame oil, for garnish
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal, for garnish
  • 1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Method

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1 In a large sauté pan, mix the sake, rice vinegar, canola oil, soy sauce and ginger. Bring to a simmer on medium to medium high heat.

pan-simmered-black-cod-4 pan-simmered-black-cod-5

2 Lay each fillet in the pan. Use a spoon to baste the tops of each fillet until you see the flakes of the fish separate a little, which should take about 30 seconds to 1 minute per fillet. Let the fish simmer for 3-6 minutes, depending on how thick they are. Estimate 3 minutes for a 1/4 inch-thick fillet, up to 6 minutes for an inch-thick fillet.

3 Gently move the fish to individual plates. If you want, use (clean) needle-nosed pliers or tweezers to remove the pin bones in the fillets.

4 Increase the heat on the sauce and boil vigorously for 1 minute, stirring constantly to reduce the sauce. Spoon a tablespoon or more of the sauce over each fillet and discard the rest. Drizzle a little bit of sesame oil over each fillet, then garnish with the green onions and toasted sesame seeds.

Serve immediately.

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Links:

Nobu's Miso Marinated Black Cod, from The Kitchn

Black Cod with Summer Vegetables, from Use Real Butter

Black Cod with A Salad of Beets, Carrots and Radishes, from Cannelle at Vanille

Pan Simmered Black Cod on Simply Recipes

29 Comments

  1. Karen

    Sablefish comes up regularly in our CSF allotment. I look forward to trying this recipe – especially the brining to firm it up. So far, I have tried baking, frying and broiling this fish with very little success. (Broiled a long time with Teriyaki was almost edible). As my daughter says, “It’s hard to make mushy fish palatable”! Baked, my son remarked “Mom, this is like fish jello!” Yours and Hank’s recipes have never failed me, Elise, so I’m hoping this recipe will save the day :-)

  2. Sandy S

    Really looking forward to trying this recipe! Though I have never had Pacific black cod, the combination of soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger and green onions is a favorite of mine. And, a little tasty brain food certainly won’t hurt. Black cod, dark sesame oil and sake are on the shopping list!

  3. Mike

    This sounds like it would also work well for other fish–I’m thinking shark or sword. Do you have other references?

  4. Melinda

    Looks delicious! I have halibut fillets — do you think this recipe would work for them?

    • Try it, you'll like it

      [[Melinda April 10, 2014 at 8:19 pm
      I have halibut fillets — do you think this recipe would work for them?]]

      Generally speaking, Elise will tell you to try it out and report back on the results. If you literally have the fillets on hand, then just give it a go.

  5. Frank

    You say “Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the sauce over each fillet and discard the rest.” Yet your photo of the completed dish shows the fish laying in a pool of liquid. What’s the liquid ?

    • Elise

      When you transfer the fish to the plate, there will be some liquid that comes with it. Then you spoon more over it. Perhaps we were rather generous with the tablespoon of sauce? Basically, add as much sauce as you want. I’ll update the instructions to be more intentionally vague on that point. Thank you!

  6. Susan Walter

    Brining the fish is a really good idea. In Europe (I live in France) it would work well with lieu noir which is a cheap cod relative (I forget what it is called in English — Pollack maybe…) and with mullet. I often brine prawns, not to firm them up, but simply to refresh their flavour a bit (we live 200km from the sea). You can add some lemon juice to fish brining liquor too.

    • Evie

      It is daunting to know how to cook the unfamiliar fish I see when we are staying in Paris. I shall have to try Elise’s and Hank’s method when we are there this summer. Thank you!

  7. Julie

    This is a dish I want to try soon. I have had this fish at a Japanese restaurant before and wished I could duplicate it at home. Thanks!

  8. Stacey Snacks

    This is very similar to the famous Nobu black cod recipe. So good!

  9. Renee

    Sounds yummy! We like eating cod, but I don’t know if it’s actually black cod or not. Is there a difference?

    • Elise

      Hi Renee, Pacific Black Cod is completely different from cod. It’s much richer, oilier (in a good way). It also goes by the name of “sable fish”.

  10. Evie

    I saw previously frozen black cod in our local Whole Foods. Is this what you prepared for your post?

    • Elise

      Yes, that’s the one Evie! I’ve seen both whole and fillets carried at our local Whole Foods.

  11. Carol at Wild Goose Tea

    What an interesting treatment for a nice thick piece of fish. Last weekend I ate at a Asian fusion restaurant in Seattle called Dragonfish. It was a headliner of a meal for me. I tried several dishes that were carefully prepared in sauces and ways I was not familiar with—-and I eat a lot of Asian food. So this recipe piques my interest with its simple but creative twist.

  12. Kathy Walton

    Made this tonight, as Whole Foods had black cod on sale. I also had a couple of salmon filets in the refrigerator which needed to be cooked, so I doubled the sauce recipe and marinated the salmon in some. The salmon was baked in a 450F oven for 20 minutes, and the cod was cooked as above. Both were *amazingly* good! Thank you for this recipe. Definitely a keeper! A hit of sweet from the sake, a bit of salty from the soy sauce, ginger just right and the cod is soft and lovely. We had it with a huge tossed salad tonight. Next time I think I’ll wilt some fresh baby spinach in the remaining sauce and serve the fish on a bed of that spinach.

    • Elise

      Hi Kathy, I’m so glad you liked it! Good to know the sauce works well with salmon too. :-)

  13. Keli M. from Lino Lakes

    I’m from Minnesota in the U.S., and we have an abundance of walleye. I’m wondering if this would work with walleye fillets? I always end up either pan frying or using a beer batter and deep frying. The family loves that and objects loudly when I try baking them, but I’m open to trying something a little less fried.

  14. Ellen

    I tried this on swordfish – delicious! Instead of basting and simmering, I marinaded the steak and put on the grill for 5 minutes each side. I wanted to use the reserved liquid as a marinade once off the grill, but after the boil/simmer it was too oily from the canola oil. Do you think the canola oil can be omitted if using the grill vs. the cooktop?

  15. Elise Lafosse

    I guess you don’t recommend this recipe for regular plain cod? I will go to my Whole Foods and see if they have the frozen black cod that someone mentioned in a post. I have never seen it at my Whole Foods fresh. Looks like a great recipe.

  16. Lana

    I don’t really like fish but this looks delicious <3

  17. Paul

    Misoyaki “butterfish” is one of the star attractions on the menu at Roy’s and the way I like to make it. Here’s the way it’s prepared. http://www.hallmarkchannel.com/homeandfamily/recipe/misoyakibutterfish

  18. Keena

    Love black cod and had a great piece recently at a gourmet restaurant in Mendocino. But there were a ton of pin bones in it.
    Shouldn’t the chef have removed them prior to serving? Other than that I absolutely loved the taste and texture of the fish.
    Planning on trying your recipe AND removing bones prior to serving!

  19. Kathy Walton

    Made this tonight with sea bass, about 1″ thick, so cooked about 4 minutes on each side. Then removed the fish from the pan, turned up the heat, and tossed 10oz baby spinach in and tossed it around in the sauce as it wilted. Didn’t let it cook down all the way, just made sure it was warm. Served the fish on a bed of wilted spinach and poured what was left of the sauce on top.

    Beautiful. Just tasty and beautiful.

  20. MaryAlecia

    Another preparation for sablefish, aka black cod, that we really like comes from the book Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet. I found one place that has the recipe on-line, but if you’re interested in simply SE Asian food, this is a great book to add to your collection. It uses 1 pound of fish and a 1/2 pound of fresh ginger. I know that sounds like a lot of ginger, but it’s really, really good and so satisfying. However, since we don’t have any ginger… i’m making your recipe tonight, Elise!

  21. Jen

    Thank you very much for this! I love this recipe and use it all the time for black cod but also for salmon and halibut. I always brine if I’m using black cod or salmon since it firms up the cod and gets rid of the albumin for salmon.

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