Cod au gratin is a savory seafood dish with a creamy sauce of milk, cheese, and butter. It can feature either standard or black cod fish, and the sauce is customizable with flour for thickening and spices for flavor. This dish is typically baked and a variety of crumbled toppings can be sprinkled over the dish before it goes into the oven. Pairing suggestions for a complete meal include crusty bread and side salad, while creamy dishes should be avoided.
The type of cod used in this dish depends on personal preference and availability. The standard white cod is a dense fish with mild flavor and a flaky flesh, while black cod is nearly devoid of fishy flavors and has a creamy smooth buttery texture. Standard cod tends to be the most readily available, both fresh and in the frozen foods section of the market. Both fresh and frozen are options for this dish, but be sure to defrost the fish properly if using the latter.
There are several ways that the fish could be prepared for the cod au gratin and depends on personal flavor preference and available cooking time. Filets used can be cooked before the dish goes into the oven to shorten overall cook time, if desired. The cod is simply boiled in hot water until cooked, which only takes several minutes. It’s also possible to blanch the fish quickly and allow them to finish cooking in the oven. Thawed, uncooked fish can be used with the longest cooking time, though this method also lends the fish the richest flavor.
Sauce for the cod au gratin is the star of the dish with a creamy, cheesy taste and can be customized to create a unique flavor profile. Milk, butter, and shredded cheese such as Parmesan or cheddar are cooked together until well combined. A small amount of flour can then be added to thicken the sauce, which is then finished with complementary spices that could include dill, tarragon, or mustard seed. To cook the cod au gratin, the fish filets are placed in a greased baking dish and topped with the sauce.
A crumbled topping can then be added for a crispy coating for the final product. Panko or traditional breadcrumbs and crushed crackers are possible toppings. It’s important to watch the topping carefully during cooking, as it may brown before the fish has finished cooking. A heavier application is better for a dish containing a higher count of filets.
The dish is complete when the fish is fully cooked and flaky. Sauce will be warm, possibly to the point that it needs to be allowed to cool before serving. Finished cod au gratin can be served in bowls or plates with a fork or spoon, as it will be quite easy to eat due to the tender nature of the fish.
In order to create a complete meal, the side dishes served with the cod au gratin should be carefully chosen. Crusty bread can be served to provide a way to soak up the excess sauce, while side salads or another vegetable dish will add a nice balance. Foods with cheese or cream should be avoided as they may clash with the sauce. Mild seafood items can be consumed with this dish as well, since the cod fish flavor will mostly be overpowered by the cheese and cream.