A few weeks ago, The Daily Herald shared the story of a local fishing family and their journey of bringing halibut, black cod and other fish from sea to table. The story is part of an ongoing series, “To Your Table”, which celebrates fishermen, bakers, farmers and other workers in the food industry. The intention is to connect readers to their food sources and the hardworking people who feed us every day. People like the Olsen’s, a fourth-generation fishing family from Snohomish who uses old-school techniques to sustainably catch fish off the waters of Alaska, Washington and Canada.
Following that story, we now share a recipe you can make with freshly caught black cod.
Imagine this without drooling: Rich and buttery black cod filets, seared until crispy in a hot pan. After the leeks and fennel are sweated down, a saffron-infused white wine deglazes the pan. The seared fish then gets basted in a smoky tomato sauce with fresh basil and bay leaf. Each ingredient is intentionally sourced, as the black cod, vegetables and herbs were all purchased at the farmers market. It’s the ideal date night dish, begging for a glass of perfectly-chilled Pinot gris.
Now scale that dish to accommodate hundreds of people, and you have Della Terra. The Snohomish farm-to-table caterer prepares this Mediterranean-style dish — black cod in “crazy water” — for everything from weddings to fundraisers.
Meaning “from the earth,” Della Terra knows how to nourish a crowd while feeding into the local economy. Owner Cody Castiglia sources from dozens of farmers and producers within 100 miles of downtown Snohomish.
That includes buying black cod and halibut from Laurie Olsen’s fish selling/delivery business, You Are What You Eat Fish Company. She buys the fish through her husband Gary Olsen, a third-generation fisherman who harvests mostly black cod and halibut off the waters around Alaska, Canada and Washington. His family has been at it for more than 100 years, using old-school, sustainable fishing techniques.
“Seafood was actually something I was struggling to find a good source for,” Castiglia said, “especially on the level that they’re at: This is a family going out and catching the fish themselves.”
Also known as sablefish, black cod is less popular than halibut and salmon, but fans of the fish’s firm yet silky texture and decadent flavor may very well keep it under the radar for a reason. Its buttery taste also earned it another nickname: butterfish. Black cod is delicate and sweet, yet robust enough to take on a full-bodied tomato sauce like the one below.
Castiglia’s family is from Italy, where the slow food movement originated, so his passion for locally sourced food and traditional cooking techniques are both figuratively and literally in his blood.
“This was about celebrating their region and culture,” he said of the movement. “We feel here in the Northwest that we should be using what is growing here. We have such a rich bounty.”
Castiglia opened Della Terra in 2017, and since then he’s noticed an increased demand for caterers who serve local, organic and responsibly-sourced food.
“We have really seen a shift, with people looking for a farm-to-table caterer, and even those who just want healthy, fresh food,” Castiglia said.
His dishes are fresh and bright, focusing on each ingredient without overcrowding the plate — or as Castiglia says: “We’re sourcing amazing, local, fresh ingredients. We don’t want to screw it up.”
Black Cod Acqua Pazza (Fish in Crazy Water)
This Italian poaching technique isn’t as “crazy” as it sounds. Here, Cody Castiglia sears black cod filets to crisp up the skin, then adds them to a smoky and fragrant tomato sauce. He finishes cooking the cod by poaching and basting the filets in the sauce. His catering company, Della Terra, specializes in Italian and Spanish cuisines, which you’ll see influences of in the recipe below.
1 pound sablefish (black cod), patted dry and cut into 4-6 inch filets
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (Cody recommends Rey de la Vera brand sweet smoked paprika), plus more to taste
½ cup dry white wine, such as chardonnay
½ teaspoon of saffron
2-3 tablespoons butter (Cody buys his from Cherry Valley Dairy in Duvall)
½ of one fennel bulb, thinly sliced
½ cup leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced
3 to 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
½ teaspoon dried oregano
One pound tomatoes (about 4 to 5 Roma tomatoes, which you can find locally, blanched, skins removed and roughly chopped. Or use or a 14-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes.
1 cup chicken broth
Fresh bay leaf
Combine white wine and saffron in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once the wine begins simmering, remove from heat and place in a squeeze bottle or small bowl. Set aside.
Drizzle black cod filets with olive oil, then evenly sprinkle on salt, pepper and about one teaspoon smoked paprika. Place 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a stainless steel pan over high heat until the pan is hot. The butter may begin to brown at this point. Add filets, skin side down, and sear for a few minutes until the skin is crispy, then flip for a few more minutes.
Remove filets from the pan but keep the oil and butter. Add fennel and leeks over medium heat and cook until softened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add thinly sliced garlic, chili flakes, dried oregano and fresh bay leaf. Add a good squeeze of the saffron wine to deglaze the pan (you may not use all of it). Add tomatoes and more paprika and salt to taste. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add fish filets and let simmer in sauce for another 4 to 5 minutes, continuously spooning sauce over filets and allowing them to finish cooking in the pan.
Tear fresh basil and fennel fronds over the fish. Serve immediately.
Sound & Summit
This article is featured in the fall issue of Sound & Summit, a supplement of The Daily Herald. Explore Snohomish and Island counties with each quarterly magazine. Each issue is $3.99. Subscribe to receive all four editions for $14 per year. Call 425-339-3200 or go to soundsummitmagazine.com for more information.
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