Ingredient SpotLight

This month, I continue the focus on wine with a special nod to white wine. White wine seems so crisp and refreshing ... much like the month of March. It's an excellent beverage to enjoy with everything from fish to chicken to pork, but it can also be a great addition within a meal. And, in that spirit, I'm presenting two recipes that take advantage of good white wine to make a special meal.

The first one is a simple fish dish that's poached in a lovely mixture of wine, vegetables and spices. After the fish has been poached, the wine mixture is spooned over it to act as a thin sauce that's highly flavored and a simple finish. Whenever I serve a dish that has wine featured prominently in it, I like to serve the same wine at the table as a beverage. That should make one rule obvious: always cook with wine that you would drink!

Cod Poached in Wine

  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon white peppercorns
  • 8 parsley sprigs
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 8 ounces tomato puree
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron
  • 1 lemon juice, thinly sliced
  • 4 cod fillets

Place the water, white wine, bay leaves and onion into large heavy skillet. Tie the thyme, peppercorns and parsley in a layer of cheesecloth. Drop the pouch into the wine mixture.

Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Add the fish fillets. Cover the skillet and continue to simmer 8-10 minutes or until the fish is firm and flakes easily with a fork. Do not overcook.

Remove the fish to a serving platter, using a slotted spoon. Remove the cheesecloth bag, bay leaves and onion and discard.

Add the tomato puree and red pepper flakes to the liquid in the skillet. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring to mix well; boil until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the saffron and 3 thin slices of the lemon; boil 1 minute longer.

Spoon the sauce over the fish fillets and garnish with the remaining thin lemon slices. Serve immediately.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 25 minutes

The second recipe I have to share this month is for a classic bouillabaisse, a seafood stew that reflects the best flavors of the Mediterranean: sun-ripened tomatoes, crisp white wine, good quality olive oil and fresh seafood. It's a lovely meal that only requires a glass of that chilled wine and some crusty bread to soak up the soup. While it's humble beginnings were as a simple meal for fishermen, it has become an elegant meal that's often featured at special occasions. With ingredients like lobster, mussels and saffron, it's not difficult to imagine why! My thought is that this makes a perfect meal to bridge the gap between winter and spring and embraces them both. What's more appropriate in winter than a hearty soup? And what's more welcoming to spring than a meal featuring fresh seafood, tomatoes and saffron, the stamen of a wild crocus? Therefore, I would argue that March is absolutely the best time to splurge on this wonderful dish. Enjoy!

Bouillabaisse

  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon thyme
  • fresh black pepper
  • 2 small live lobsters
  • 3 pounds mixed fish fillets such as snapper, cod, bass, eel, haddock
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • Fish stock
  • 1 teaspoon saffron stamens
  • 1 pint mussels, scrubbed and bearded

In a heavy soup kettle, sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil. Add the herbs and simmer for 5 minutes. Cut the lobsters into 2 inch pieces and the fish into 2 inch chunks. Add to the kettle with the white wine and enough fish stock to cover the seafood. Bring to a boil and cook, covered, over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add the saffron and the mussels and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Serve hot with crusty bread on the side.

  • Yields: 8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes

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