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Cod with Pancetta, Spinach, Apple Cider Reduction and Israeli Couscous

March 11, 2012

How did life get so complicated? There was a time when I hung out with my good friends several times a week…now, it takes 147 text messages and two years to get together for dinner. Yes, I did say two years. Sure I have seen Annabelle and Cory around and about town. We have chatted over cocktails at The Wolf or laughed at another friend’s potluck. The last time the three of us sat down together ALONE to discuss life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and everything in-between was literally two years ago. So much has changed since then. New jobs, moves to different states, loss, new relationships…hell, these girls hadn’t seen my house since it was down to sub-floors and studs for my wedding…almost two years ago! We tore down and rebuilt an entire house in-between heart to hearts.

Last night, the stars were in alignment and we finally got back together again. A meeting this special needs a meal just as momentous. We did not fail.

Many years ago (maybe 8) I ate a delightful meal at a restaurant called Zoe in Seattle. Funny enough, that meal too was a special occasion with three college friends who I rarely see. I ordered a halibut dish with a bacon and apple cider reduction served over Israeli couscous. I had never had Israeli couscous before. It was magnificent. The size and texture were unlike anything I had ever had before. Unfortunately it was 8 years until I was able to find that couscous in a grocery store. I had dreamed of recreating that meal for a long time and now I had the couscous to make it happen and a date set with my dear friends.

Annabelle and Cory asked for the recipe, so here it is ladies. Thanks again for a delightful evening. I look forward to the next rendezvous…may it happen in less than two years.

Cod with Pancetta, Spinach, Apple Cider Reduction and Israeli Couscous

Israeli couscous can be difficult to find but I just can’t imagine this dish made with anything else. I am sure you could try it with orzo if you are in a pinch. Most of these steps can be done at the same time. Apple Cider can be reduced earlier in the day.

  • 1 1/2 cups Apple Cider
  • 3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/4 pound pancetta, diced
  • 1 cup Israeli Couscous
  • 2 cups Chicken Stock
  • 1 Large Shallot, thinly sliced
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 6 ounces Baby Spinach (or Swiss Chard if you prefer)
  • 4 Pieces Halibut, Cod or other White Fish rinsed and patted dry (you choose how large of pieces)
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • 1 Large Granny Smith Apple, peeled, cored and diced
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Place apple cider in a heavy sauce pan, turn on high and cook until reduced to 1/2 cup of liquid. This should take about 15 minutes. Set aside.

While apple cider reduces, heat a large skillet and add 1 tablespoon olive oil to pan. Add pancetta and cook until pancetta begins to crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove pancetta from pan and set aside.

While the pancetta cooks, start your couscous. Place Israeli couscous and chicken stock in a pot, bring to a boil and reduce to simmer until the liquid is almost entirely soaked up by the couscous. Check for doneness after 10-15 minutes. Couscous should be cooked through, but still have a nice chew. If you need to add more liquid, add a little water. If there is too much liquid remaining and couscous is done, drain in colander like you would other pastas.

Once pancetta has been set aside, return the pan to heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil, shallots and garlic. Cook over medium heat until shallots begin to soften and caramelize, about 5-10 minutes. Add spinach and cook until the spinach is wilted. Add spinach mixture to pancetta and set aside, return the pan to heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan. Season fish and add to pan, cooking 1 1/2 minutes to 2 1/2 minutes per side depending on thickness of the piece. Remove fish from pan. Set on a plate and cover with foil.

Return pan to medium heat. Add apple cider reduction and diced apple to skillet. Cook for 2 minutes or until apples begin to soften. Whisk in butter. Add pancetta and spinach mixture and Israeli couscous to pan and toss to coat. Check for seasoning.

Serve couscous mixture in bowls with a piece of fish on top.

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