Derek Dammann and Chris Johns' cod à la nage

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Derek Dammann and Chris Johns' cod à la nage

Photo, Farah Khan.

This is a classic technique that works beautifully with all kinds of fish. Working with impeccably fresh cod, like we did in Newfoundland, is a rare treat, so I wanted to treat it simply. This delicious method came immediately to mind. Whatever fish I use, I like to take the centre cut from the fillets and gently poach them in chicken stock until they are just set. Then I glaze them in a fumet made from their bones and infused with fresh herbs. It makes for a stunning plate of white on white, and it really lets the fish sing. Extra sauce can be frozen. -DD + CJ


  • 2 lb (900 g) halibut bones
  • 3 tbsp (45 mL) canola oil
  • 6 white button mushrooms , thinly sliced
  • 3 stalks celery , thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) thinly sliced shallots
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) peeled and diced celery root
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) white wine
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) dry vermouth
  • 4 cups (1 L) ice cubes
  • 6 cups (1.5 L) cold water

For the sauce

  • 1 cup (250 mL) whipping cream
  • 3 sprigs tarragon
  • 3 sprigs mint
  • 2 sprigs chervil
  • 1 sprig parsley
  • 1 strip lemon peel
  • sea salt
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) cold butter
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) crème fraîche

To finish the dish

  • 4 skin-on cod fillets , (8 oz/225 g each)
  • 3 cups (750 mL) chicken stock
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 cloves garlic , lightly crushed
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) cold water
  • Kosher salt
  • Flaky sea salt


  • For the fish fumet: Cut the halibut bones into 2- to 3-inch (5 to 8 cm) pieces and rinse well under cold water.
  • In a large, heavy pot, heat the oil over medium heat until it just begins to smoke. Add the halibut bones and gently sauté until they are cooked and start to fall apart, taking care that they don’t take on any colour.
  • Remove the bones from the pot and reserve them. Add the mushrooms, celery, shallots, celery root, thyme and bay leaf, stirring to coat the vegetables completely. Turn down the heat to low and cover with a round of parchment paper. Cook the vegetables, stirring every so often and making sure they do not take on any colour, until they are tender, 35 to 40 minutes. If they start to catch, just pull the pot off the heat and let it rest for a minute.
  • Discard the parchment paper. Add the reserved bones, the wine and vermouth. Slowly reduce until the pot is almost dry. Add the ice cubes and the water and bring to a simmer, skimming any impurities that come to the surface. Gently simmer the fumet for 1 hour.
  • Strain through a colander and then strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium saucepan. Fumet can be made a day or two in advance and refrigerated.
  • For the sauce: Add the cream to the fumet and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer until the liquid is reduced by one-third, or until it is your desired sauce consistency, making sure the sauce does not take on any colour.
  • Turn off the heat and add the tarragon, mint, chervil and parsley sprigs and the lemon peel. Allow to steep for 10 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and return to the saucepan. Season with the sea salt, cayenne and a few drops of lemon juice. Whisk in the cold butter gradually, then stir in the crème fraîche.
  • To finish the dish: Remove the cod from the fridge 30 minutes before you are ready to cook it.
  • Bring the chicken stock, thyme and garlic to a gentle simmer. After 5 minutes, discard garlic and thyme. Make a slurry with the cornstarch and water, and whisk this into the stock. Cook for 3 minutes, whisking occasionally, until thickened slightly. Season with kosher salt.
  • Gently lower in the cod. Bring the stock back up to the lightest simmer, then turn off the heat and allow the fish to finish cooking in the residual heat of the stock, about 3 more minutes.
  • Using a fish slice, transfer the cod skin side up to a paper-towel-lined plate and allow to rest for 2 minutes. Carefully peel away the skin and turn the fish over.
  • Pool the fumet sauce onto four warmed dinner plates, season the fish with a few flakes of sea salt and place one portion on each plate.

True North by Derek Dammann and Chris Johns © 2015. Published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. Food photography by Farah Khan; scenic photography by Farah Khan and Alison Slattery. All rights reserved.