Pistachio-Crusted Cod with Lemon-Herb Yogurt
You could use any firm, mild white fish to do this dish (salmon, on the other hand, I think would be a bit strong.) The yogurt dipping sauce to accompany it, however, could go with any simply prepared fish — I can eat it by the spoonful!
2 cod fillets, about 3/4 lb to 1 lb total weight
1/2 cup milk
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup pistachios (natural, not the red-dyed ones!), shelled and crushed or chopped into small pieces
3 tbsp yellow cornmeal
For the lemon-herb yogurt:
1/2 cup plain yogurt, either the thick Greek kind or regular (if using regular yogurt, you’ll need to drain some of the liquid off – see note below)
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 scallion, minced
1 tsp grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/4-1/2 tsp coarse salt, kosher or sea (start with 1/4 tsp and add up to 1/4 tsp more to taste)
fresh ground black pepper
If you’re using plain yogurt (not the thick Greek kind), place the yogurt in a fine-mesh seive or colander lined with a paper towel and drain it, covered, over a bowl in the fridge for 1 hour, to drain off some of its liquid. No need to drain if you’re using Greek yogurt.
Place the cod fillets in a glass dish, pour the milk over them, and cover the dish. Let this rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the pistachio crust. To make the pistachio crust, place 1/3 cup shelled pistachios in a plastic sealed bag and whack with a rolling pin or meat mallet (flat side) until crushed into small pieces. Pour this out onto a plate, add 3 tbsp cornmeal to the plate, and toss to mix, lightly, with your fingers.
To make the lemon-herb yogurt dip:
Stir together the yogurt and sour cream, then add the cumin, fresh parsley, garlic, scallion, lemon zest and extra-virgin olive oil. Grind in some fresh black pepper, to taste, and then add 1/4 tsp salt. Taste this, and add more salt if you wish — I usually end up using a total of 1/2 tsp kosher salt. Put the dip back in the fridge if the cod isn’t yet ready to cook; I usually take the dip out when the cod is cooking so the chill comes off a bit before serving.
To cook the cod: preheat the oven to 425. You’ll be pan-searing the cod to crunch up the crust, then flipping it and finishing cooking in the oven (in the pan.) Take the cod out of the milk and shake it off to drain. Pat it dry, and season both sides generously with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Dredge one side of the fillets in the pistachio/cornmeal mixture so they get a nice crust, and set aside on a separate plate until you’re ready to cook them. To cook, heat 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat in a large, heavy, oven-proof skillet (I use a cast iron skillet) until very hot. It’s really important to get the skillet quite hot before placing the fish in it — the hotter it is, the less the fish will stick and the easier it will be to flip. Once the skillet is pretty blazing hot, set the fillets in, pistachio-side down. Let these cook until the crust is golden brown, which I find takes around 5 minutes (but will depend on how hot your skillet is — you can use a spatula to lift up one side of the cod to check.) Once the crust has nicely browned, use a spatula to flip the cod — the crust sides will now be facing up — and place the entire skillet in the oven. The cod will finish cooking here, which takes anywhere from 5-10 minutes more, depending on the thickness of your fillets. You’ll need to stick close by to keep checking them; once they flake when the flesh is gently pulled with a fork, they’re done.
Remove the pan from the oven (carefully! use potholders) and set on a cooling rack or back on the stove. Remove the fish to their serving plates, and serve with a good dollop of the lemon-herb yogurt.