Friday, April 17, 2015

Cod with Coconut Curry Sauce

by Sheila Connolly

It was a year ago that my sister and I made a pilgrimage to New York City, which included a sumptuous luncheon at Eric Ripert’s restaurant, Le Bernardin (which I reported on here). Sigh.

This week I found myself contemplating a pound of fish and trying to figure out what to do with it. I turned to Epicurious online, and lo and behold, up popped a 2005 recipe by mon ami Eric, titled “Cod with Coconut, Lime, and Lemongrass Curry Sauce.” It had to be fate.

As luck would have it, I had almost all the ingredients on hand (except the lime leaves—had some but they expired from old age). Eric’s recipe was a wee bit high end (he is much into elegant presentation), but easy to simplify. And the sauce or broth or whatever you want to call it is delicious!

Note: It’s just my husband and me at home these days, so I usually make two-serving recipes (except for desserts!). Most cookbook recipes will feed at least four people. I promise I won’t give you any recipes that don’t multiply easily.

Cod with Coconut Curry Sauce


1 Tblsp butter

2 shallots, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 lemongrass stalk, thinly sliced (I didn’t have
   fresh, but I did have some in a jar)
1 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, thinly sliced
3 kaffir lime leaves (if you can find them)
1 Tblsp Madras curry
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 cilantro sprigs
Sea salt to taste
White pepper to taste
1 Tblsp fresh lime juice

During the first simmer

Melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat. Add the shallots, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, lime leaves and curry and cook slowly without browning, for about 5 minutes.  Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  Add the coconut milk and cilantro and simmer for another 5 minutes. Taste, then season with salt and pepper if needed.  Strain the liquid through fine sieve and set aside.

All in, before straining


A pound of hake (okay, raw fish isn't much
to look at--but this is how much you need)

2 filets of white fish, 1-1/2” thick (the original recipe used cod, but hake was what I had—it worked just fine. Flounder might be too delicate.)
2 Tblsp canola or vegetable oil
Sea salt to taste
White pepper to taste

Pat the fish filets dry and season on both sides with the salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and sauté until lightly browned, turning once. It shouldn’t take more than 5-7 minutes total.

(Confession: After this point Eric’s instructions were much more complicated, but this method works just fine. I do want to share his final detail:  cook the fish “until a metal skewer can be easily inserted into the fish and, when left in the fish for 5 seconds, feels hot when touched to your lip.” Yes, dear friends, he’s kissing the skewer.)

When ready to serve, reheat the sauce and add the lime juice to brighten the flavor.

In the original recipe, this was served in a deep bowl flanked by quartered baby bok choy poached in a whole lot of butter, topped with the sauce. Instead I made rice, then laid the fish over the rice and poured the sauce over both. Much easier. Serve with a spoon, because you’re going to want to finish all the sauce!

You do know what a privy is, right? It's probably exactly what you think it is, and there's one that's been uncovered in the basement of the Pennsylvania Antiquarian Society (don't worry, it hasn't been used for more than a century). But what's found inside triggers a murder and leads to solving a much earlier double murder.

Privy to the Dead (Museum Mystery #6), coming June 2015, and available for pre-order at Amazon and Barnes and Noble now.


  1. I don't have many fish dishes in my repertoire, but I'm definitely adding this. Sounds so yummy!

    1. Peg, we dutifully try to eat fish once a week, because we know it's good for us. And we try to buy non-frozen fish caught in U.S. waters. It's an uphill battle, and there are usually only two or three choices (and we live 20 miles from an ocean!). We're good buddies now with the woman who's on the fish counter most weekends--she's from Germany. It's hard to develop a repertoire when there's so little to work with. But my father always loved fish, and I can remember him bringing home fresh tuna steaks (what? they're that color?!). We soldier on. But I think this sauce would make almost anything taste good.

  2. I love this! Just bought some more coconut milk. It sounds so good, and you have made it simple enough for the rest of us to try. I've never heard of lime leaves! Don't think I've even seen them for sale. What kind of flavor do they impart?

  3. Krista, I bought a package of lime leaves (fresh!) at Whole Foods in Pennsylvania last summer, and then watched them dry out as I tried to figure out what to do with them. I sure don't see them often. I'm guessing they add a hint of bitterness. Not essential to this dish!

  4. I don't care for curry but I bet the sauce would be good without it.

  5. This sounds delicious and offers a starting place for improvisation (working around missing ingredients and such).