In This Issue
 Cod - Eat it, read about it A fish, a book and a history lesson.
 Last Week's FoodLetter and Archives Links to previous articles.
 Let us hear from you! You're invited to talk back.
 Administrivia Change E-mail address, frequency, format or unsubscribe.
Order Mark Kurlansky's "Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World" from in paperback for $10.50 or in hardcover for $15.64.
Cod - Eat it, read about it

It must be a food book, because it won the James Beard Award for food writing, but you could have fooled me: I would have called Mark Kurlansky's "Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World" an outstanding history book, a quick read, related with a literate story-teller's flair, with a few recipes scattered throughout to keep the food lovers happy.

I came only belatedly to this excellent book (it was published in 1998), lured perhaps by a hunger for cod inspired by my recent trip to Portugal, where there was at least a taste of bacalhau (salt cod) on just about every dinner table. White, flakey and mild, it's the kind of fish I love, and I couldn't resist trying some as soon as I got home.

OK, I confess: The hard, stick-like chunk of baccalà, the Italian equivalent of bacalhau that I picked up before Christmas, still languishes unused in my fridge.
I'm not good at dishes that require planning and preparation two days in advance. But I'll get to it one of these days, and I'll tell you about it when I do.

But fresh cod: That's another story. I picked up a couple of pretty, gleaming white fresh fillets the other day and chose a very simple Mediterranean-style recipe (from Northern Italy) that would showcase the mild flavor of the fish rather than covering it up with veggies and spice.

Meanwhile, Kurlansky's book added a dimension to my enjoyment of the meal. I might have thought that an entire book about cod (which, like tuna, is often called by the somewhat redundant name "codfish") might tell me a little more about cod than I would really want to know. But there's a lot worth knowing about this fish, which as the book's portentious title hints, played a more significant role in world history than most of us likely realize. The early European explorers may have come to the New World in search of gold, or the mysterious East; but they stayed for cod, a product that has had genuine strategic importance in international politics for centuries.

Let Kurlansky tell the tale, though. If you're interested in the book, you can order "Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World" from in paperback for $10.50, a $3.50 saving, or in hardcover for $15.64, a $7.36 saving. Now that I've discovered this guy, I've ordered his other food-history book, "Salt: A World History." More about that another day.

INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)

2 medium baking potatoes
1 pound (450g) fresh cod fillets, skinned
Black pepper
1/4 cup (120ml) olive oil


1. Peel the potatoes and slice them as thin as you can. Put the potatoes in a large pan with plenty of salted water, bring to a boil, and simmer for 4 or 5 minutes. Drain and carefully cover with cold water, taking care to keep the potato slices intact.

2. Preheat oven to 400F (200C). Wipe a small baking pan with a little of the olive oil, and arrange about half of the potatoes on it in neat rows, each slice slightly overlapping the one next to it. Drizzle the potatoes with about 1 tablespoon (15ml) of the olive oil. Arrange the cod fillets on top of the potatoes, sprinkle them with salt and pepper to taste, and drizzle on another tablespoon of the olive oil. Arrange the remaining potatoes on top, drizzle with the remaining olive oil and finish with a little more salt and pepper.

3. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the fish is flaky and the potatoes on top start turning crisp and brown.

WINE MATCH: A dry white wine is mandatory, and it had might as well be Mediterranean. I paired it with the Feudi San Gregorio 2004 "Serrocielo" Sannio featured in yesterday's 30 Second Wine Advisor, but the wine was almost too intensely concentrated for this subtle dish. Next time, maybe something dry and crisp but lighter in style - a Soave, maybe, or Vernaccia di San Gimignano.

If you have questions, comments or ideas to share about this article or food and cookery in general, you're welcome to drop by the Food & Drink section of our online WineLovers Community, where I've posted this article as a new topic, "FoodLetter: Cod - Eat it, read about it,"

Click the REPLY button on the forum page to post a comment or response. (If your E-mail software broke this long link in half, take care to paste it all back into one line before you enter it in your Web browser.)

If you prefer to comment privately, feel free to send me E-mail at

Want a copy that's easy to use in the kitchen? You'll find a simple, plain-text version of this recipe, suitable for printing, online at

Last Week's FoodLetter and Archives

Last week's Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Fusion on the fly (Jan. 19, 2006)

Wine Advisor FoodLetter archive:

30 Second Wine Advisor archive:

Let us hear from you!

If you have suggestions or comments about The 30 Second Wine Advisor's FoodLetter, or if you would like to suggest a topic for a coming edition and recipe, please drop me a note at I really enjoy hearing from you, and I try to give a personal reply to all mail if I possibly can.

Of course you also have a standing invitation to participate in our interactive FoodLovers' Discussion Group. To participate in this friendly online community, simply click to

Be sure to check the "Food & Drink" folder for our food-related conversations, and feel free to reply to any topic or start a new one.

SUBSCRIBE: RSS Feed (free)
 30 Second Wine Advisor, daily or weekly (free)
 Wine Advisor FoodLetter, Thursdays (free)
 Wine Advisor Premium Edition, alternate Tuesdays ($24/year)

For all past editions,
click here


For information, E-mail


This is The 30 Second Wine Advisor's weekly FoodLetter. To subscribe or unsubscribe, change your E-mail address, or for any other administrative matters, please use the individualized hotlink found at the end of your E-mail edition. If this is not practical, contact me by E-mail at, including the exact E-mail address that you used when you subscribed, so I can find your record.

Thursday, Jan. 26, 2006
Copyright 2005 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

Subscribe to the 30 Second Wine Advisor's FoodLetter

FoodLetter archives

Subscribe to the 30 Second Wine Advisor