Bakaliaros me Horta Avgolemono

Cod with Leafy Greens in Egg-Lemon Sauce

THIS DELICATE winter dish is prepared on almost every island, using the wild greens gathered from the hills and mountains. It is often made with “mountain fish,” as salt cod is called, since that is the cheapest and most readily available. Its robust taste complements the tart and somewhat bitter greens.

Instead of mixed greens, you can use tender Swiss chard leaves, as is customary on Syros, or add a couple of thinly chopped ramps (wild leeks) or a small leek along with the fennel, as cooks on Crete do. You can even omit the egg-lemon sauce if you prefer, adding just the lemon juice at the end of the cooking when you turn the fish fillets. If you like, accompany the dish with small steamed or boiled potatoes.

Ingredients

  • 4 cod fillets (about pounds total), rinsed and patted dry
  • Salt
  • cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, or more to taste
  • cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large fennel bulb, trimmed (fronds and tender stalks reserved), halved and thinly sliced
  • 3–4 scallions (white and most of the green parts), thinly sliced
  • 1 pound mixed tender greens (such as baby spinach, small Swiss chard leaves, miner’s lettuce, pea shoots, orache, fresh amaranth, outer leaves of escarole or romaine lettuce and/or beet greens), washed but not dried
  • ½ cup plus 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • ½ cup fish stock or bottled clam juice
  • ½ cup chopped fresh fennel fronds plus tender stalks, or fresh dill
  • 4 small carrots, peeled
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved in 3 tablespoons cold water

Method

Season the cod with salt to taste and place in a baking dish or shallow bowl. In a small bowl, whisk 3 tablespoons of the lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of the oil, the fennel seeds and pepper to taste. Pour the lemon-juice mixture over the cod, turn to coat, cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 hours.

In a large, deep skillet with a lid, heat the remaining oil and sauté the fennel bulb over medium heat until tender, about 4 minutes. Add the scallions and sauté for 1 minute more. Add the greens and ½ cup of the water, cover and steam for 3 minutes. With tongs, turn the greens, then cover and steam for 2 to 3 minutes more, or until all the greens have wilted. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside.

Add the wine to the skillet and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the stock or clam juice and bring to a boil. Add the cod and any remaining liquid and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, then turn the fish. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the fennel fronds or dill for garnish and sprinkle the fish with the remainder. Cover the fish with the greens and cook for 3 to 4 minutes more, or until the fish is just cooked through. Remove from the heat and let stand for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, steam the carrots until crisp-tender, about 10 minutes.

With tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the greens to four plates, letting them drain into the skillet for a few seconds. Place the fish over the greens. Arrange the carrots next to the greens. Keep warm.

Transfer the cooking liquid to a medium saucepan over medium heat. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining lemon juice and 3 tablespoons water. Slowly add most of the cooking liquid to the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the egg mixture into the saucepan, add the cornstarch mixture and reduce the heat to low. Simmer, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Taste and adjust the seasonings; the sauce should be quite lemony.

Pour some of the sauce over the fish, greens and carrots, sprinkle with the reserved fennel or dill and serve warm, with the remaining sauce on the side.

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