I was lucky enough to visit Espelette, the Basque town where Espelette pepper comes from, and had a version of this for lunch while we were there, during a meal break when our eyes went into overdrive from so much red due to the vast quantities of drying peppers displayed on every possible surface. As is often the case when I cook, an ingredient sparks a dish or a meal. Last night's cod Basquaise was inspired by the afternoon's spice cupboard inventory, my low stock of Espelette pepper, and the memory of that lovely al fresco lunch.
Despite my having sampled this during the summer and served it over steamed garden greens, I think that this would make an excellent winter dish, over polenta.
1 portion cod fillet
1/2 cup diced Chorizo sausage
1/2 red bell pepper or an equivalent amount of mixed peppers, sliced lengthwise
1/4 small red onion, sliced into half moons
6 cherry tomatoes, halved (I sued yellow cherry tomatoes for color contrast, use what you have)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce (or your favorite store bought sauce, preferably one with roasted garlic in it)
1/8 tsp Espelette pepper powder (or chili flakes if you do not have Espelette pepper)
1/8 tsp smoked paprika
1/8 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dry white wine
2 tsps olive oil
Salt to taste
Rub the cod on all sides with the Espelette pepper, the paprika and the thyme. Salt lightly and set aside while you prep all of your vegetables. Heat the tomato sauce in a small pan and leave on the hob to keep warm as you cook the fish.
Heat the oil in a separate pan over medium-low. As soon as it is shimmering hot, add the Chorizo, garlic and onions and a pinch of salt. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant, the onions softening and translucent, and the Chorizo burnished and starting to release spiced oil into the pan, taking care that the garlic does not burn. Add the red pepper slices and the white wine and stir to combine. Cook for an additional minute.
Make a well in the center of the pan and add the cod. Nestle the halved cherry tomatoes around the fish on top of the Chorizo-vegetable mixture. Cook for two minutes on one side, before flipping the fish and cooking it for an additional two minutes on the other, stirring up the vegetables around the fish when you do. The fish is ready when it can be easily flaked with a fork, as illustrated along the top of the fish in the photo above.
As soon as you flip the fish, turn the heat back on under the tomato sauce to bring it back up to temperature.
Pour it into a deep dish. Add a portion of steamed greens (if using) and top with the fish.
Stir the Chorizo-vegetable mixture remaining behind in the pan to combine with the pan juices before adding to the dish and digging in.