Most nights, our dinners are simple. We make roasted vegetables, salad, whatever leftovers we have from yesterday’s lunch, or another day’s project in the fridge.
Sometimes we eat previously prepared food we’ve stuffed in the freezer. Other times we eat ice cream. We tend to go for easy and simple and mindless. Yes, despite what the stereotype of being a food writer might be.
Then, every so often, one of us gets freshly inspired, like I did last week with this pecorino-encrusted cod recipe, and making dinner becomes less about efficiency and more about fun.
These are the times when I love the kitchen. In these moments, cooking feels like a way to creatively vent out all the tension of those crazy mental Ferris wheels.
Making food offers a way to tangibly let my hands show my brain, again, that some forms of disorder resolve, making beauty in the end.
Thinking about this just now, I googled “why creative outlet.”
That’s what I’m describing here, I guess – what it means to have a creative outlet, be it cooking or writing or pottery.
Doing so, I fell deep into a rabbit hole of articles about how practicing creativity in any of its forms can be valuable for people fighting everything from depression to anxiety to boredom to stress.
In truth, creativity can “help people perform better at work,” says a recent study featured at NPR. Gardening helped one woman featured in a Writer’s Digest Magazine article to improve the way she wrote.
Lorraine Thompson at Copywriters’ Kitchen cites regular cooking as a weapon against stress and as a way to help your mind to slow down. “Food preparation is a process,” she says. “It takes time. It requires participation … By handling food every day, you’re given the opportunity to be mindful.”
They’re all sort of saying the same thing I’m saying. Like I said last week, on a day that I started behind on work hours and finished strolling fields and hills and horse stables, “you never know what a day will bring!”
Maybe you’ll be working on a car or studying astronomy or tilling the earth. You never know what gift of work, especially creative work, will be the very tool to provide hope.
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil or ghee
- 1 1/2 pounds cod filet cut into 3 or 4 pieces, thawed to room temperature (frozen? Try this.)
- Salt and Pepper
- 1/2 cup grated Pecorino cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons chopped dill
- 1 pound carrots peeled and chopped into similar-sized chunks
- 1 pound gold potatoes peeled and quartered
- water to cover carrots/potatoes
- 1 pinch salt
- 1/4 cup kefir
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 clove garlic grated
- 1 tablespoon chopped dill
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Turn the broiler on in your oven (ours has two options: high and low; we used low). In a large cast-iron skillet, warm the ghee and/or coconut oil until hot. Meanwhile, salt and pepper the top of the cod filets generously.
- Once oil is hot, lay filets, seasoned side down, right in the pan. Cook three minutes, and while it's cooking, mix together topping ingredients in a small bowl.
- Then use a spatula (ideally a fish spatula) to flip the filets over. Spread the topping over the filets, pressing it gently with a utensil into the fish. With oven-mitted hands, move the skillet to the oven and broil the fish for 2 to 3 more minutes, until crisp and golden on top. If you're going to err, err on the side of less doneness; taste it and stick it back in if needed; if you overcook the fish just by a minute, it could be a little dry.
- Meanwhile, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat, letting it turn from solid to liquid to golden to brown, with a wonderful, nutty smell. Add chopped dill.
- This may be made ahead of time, and rewarmed. Place carrots and potatoes in a large stockpot and add enough water to cover them. Set over medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook until everything is soft through, about 45 minutes.
- Strain the vegetables, reserving about ¾ cup of the water. Transfer them to a Vitamix or other blender, adding the reserved liquid, and blend until chunky and well mixed, using the tamper if necessary.
- Scoop this mixture back into the pot, and stir in kefir, butter, grated garlic, and chopped dill. Mash until it’s the texture you like (we like it to stay a little on the chunky side). Season generously with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Serve fillets hot, atop mounds of carrot potato mash. Drizzle with brown butter sauce.
For more details on making brown butter, be sure to check out our complete guide and also check out some of our other brown butter based recipes:
- Homemade Brown Butter Brioche Dinner Rolls
- Pumpkin Pie with Sage and Brown Butter
- Roasted Carrot Ravioli in Thyme Brown Butter
- Sweet Potato Gnocchi in Brown Butter Sage Sauce
- Brown Butter Shortbread Cookies
- Grandma’s Brown Butter Cookies
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.
22 thoughts on “Pecorino-Encrusted Cod in Brown Butter, Dill, and Carrot Potato Mash”
Such a beautiful recipe & gorgeous pictures! This carrot- potato mash sounds so delicious that I am making right now for our dinner 🙂 These pictures look like just jumped out of Nigel Slater’s book – stunning!
Thank you, sweet Medha! I hope you enjoy! It’s so simple and yet so good!
I LOVED this post. A friend and I were just talking this past weekend about making room for creativity. As a teacher it’s something I’m always trying to press into my students! And this recipe — swoon.
I love your teacher perspective because you so get it. Your lucky kids!
You so beautifully described the core of the idea that has been fascinating me for the past year and a half. Gorgeous, Shanna!
Wish we could sit down for coffee to talk it all out for a few hours. : )
when do you add the cheesy topping to the cod?
Elissa! Bless you for noticing this mistake! The recipe has been updated — you add it after flipping the fish and just before sliding the pan in the oven.
Reading this post makes me want to go create something beautiful. And meet a horse named Boo.
I swear that horse and I had a moment. We totally connected.
Dill + fish + cheese? Mmmhmm. Gorgeous, as always.
Ha, right? And thanks, A!
Shanna! you said everything I’ve been feeling lately – and this need for a creative outlet has become stronger and stronger with the past few months. Thanks for articulating all this so well. I’m there with you – about how creating things for the sake of creation can really give us hope.
Me too, Felicia. It comes in waves, I think, and I’m always so thankful for spaces like the kitchen and the blog when I need a way to work stuff out by making.
It’s interesting how we easily put others before ourselves (work, family, etc.). People might hesitate to pursue a creative outlet because “there’s no time” but we all have the same 24 hours in a day and, believe or not, we have some say in how that time is spent. Like you’re saying, instead of throwing something together for dinner being mindful while preparing a meal for your family. A little time spent planning meals for the week makes this task a lot easier than you think.
Yeah, it’s funny how hard it is to make creative outlets a priority.. especially when you realize how much they empower you to do other things. I think it’s worth pursuing!
This is beautiful! I love that first picture especially. That quotation about mindfulness really resonates with me especially given that I’m currently working on a crazy project away from home so I don’t have the time or the ability to take a step back and focus on creating something.
I loved your post today. You so get it.
What a great post! I can very much relate to that!
As for the recipe, the pictures are mouthwatering. The fish looks like it’s cooked to perfection! Well done… 🙂
Aw, thanks, Tina!
It was wonderful to see you last week. You look beautiful! This dish looks beautiful, my kind of food. As a food blogger, it may also surprise people as to how simply we eat most dinners too. I think being in the creative zone in the ultimate experience. Having just come off a hundred hours writing an article, I never felt happier working. Unhappy in my earlier career that paid a lot, I was perplexed and depressed until I found that I’m a creative junkie and I can’t be anything else. I’m reminded that we are created in God’s image and He’s the ultimate creative. I feel closest to God when I feel his creativity pouring into me. It doesn’t have to be something religious; it can be banana pudding, and I can feel God in it. I see God in your writing talent. Your words flow beautifully. You are the best writer of any blogger I read. I see things like a writer sees, and I think like one, but I don’t have the gift you have. I can’t wait to see one day where your talent takes you. xoxo
Oh, Angela, you are very kind. Thank you for this way generous comment and for being kind to us last week. I am so psyched for your upcoming article — Please tell us or post about where we can find it when it’s published! We’re so proud of you and, as the people who reached out to you about it would say, you’re more of a writer than you think you are. I love seeing the creative hand of God in you, too. -s