Thursday, May 17, 2012

Nobu's Miso-Marinated Black Cod

Miso-Marinated Back Cod is a signature dish of Japanese chef Nobu Matsuhisa, whose exquisite cuisine has won him accolades for years, and helped build a restaurant empire that now spans the globe – from NYC to Tokyo, Australia, Dubai, Moscow and London. Black cod, also known as Sablefish, isn't actually a cod at all, but has a similar taste and appearance of cod. Moist and delicate with sweet soft flesh, black cod is reputed to have even higher levels of healthy omega-3 fatty acids than salmon. There are many ways to prepare black cod but it's commonly prepared with miso, a fermented soybean paste, which is used as a marinade or a glaze on the fish before being baked.

My succulent Miso-Marinated Back Cod: rich, moist and delicate - and perfectly caramelized

Nobu's fabulous miso-based marinade produces spectacular results with fatty or oily fish such as salmon, sea bass, yellow tail and scallops as well as chicken, pork and beef, but best of all — Black Cod. An ancient Japanese method for flavouring fish, Saikyozuke cures the flesh slightly and permeates it with a delicate flavour, and the grilling caramelizes and glazes the surface, leaving the fish wonderfully succulent. 

Simple ingredients: Sake, Mirin, White Miso Soybean Paste and sugar. 
Sweet white miso is sweet and light in taste, colour and texture and is fermented 
for just two to eight weeks, as compared to other miso types which are usually 
fermented for three years or more.

Miso, a fermented paste made from soya beans and rice, barley, wheat or rye, is used in Japanese and South East Asian cuisine, and imparts a deeply savoury, rich intensity to any dish that's cooked with it, from classic miso soup to marinated and grilled fish, fowl or vegetables. This Japanese method for preparing fish has been around for centuries, but became trendy after superstar chef Nobu made it famous. I first fell in love with Miso-Marinated Black Cod years ago at Nami in Toronto. 

Peter at the helm of Nami's Robata Grill

Peter, a lovely Japanese gentleman, is the master of Nami's robata grill, where he serves made-to-order grilled seafood, vegetables and meats to devoted customers. His Miso-Marinated Black Cod is the best I've ever tasted, with firm, thick pinky-white flesh that's as soft and rich as a well marbled steak. Even the skin is delicious, having been transformed by the sweet, smoky miso glaze. Wishing to reproduce Peter's succulent black cod at home, I use Nobu's classic recipe with delectable results every time! 

Miso-Marinated Black Cod (Gindara no saikyozuke)
Serves 4
Adapted from 'Nobu: The Cookbook'

For the Nobu-style Saikyo Miso Marinade:
1/4 cup sake

1/4 cup mirin

4 tbsp white miso paste

3 tbsp sugar

For the fish:

4 black cod fillets, about 1/2 pound each

Bring the sake and the mirin to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Boil for 20 seconds to evaporate the alcohol. Turn the heat down to low and add the miso paste, mixing with a wooden spoon. When the miso has dissolved completely, turn the heat up to high again and add the sugar, stirring constantly with the wooden spoon to ensure that the bottom of the pan doesn't burn. Remove from heat once the sugar is fully dissolved. Cool to room temperature.

Pat dry the black cod fillets thoroughly with paper towels. Slather the fish with the miso marinade and place in a non-reactive dish or bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Nobu suggests leaving the cod to steep in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. However, I cheated and had it on the grill within 4 hours and it was delicious.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Preheat a grill or broiler. Lightly wipe off any excess miso clinging to the fillets but don't rinse it off. Place the fish on the grill, or in a broiler pan, and grill or broil until the surface of the fish turns brown. Then bake for 10 to 15 minutes.

At Nami, Peter spears the black cod with 2 fine skewers and suspends it over an open grill, then turns the fish and tents it with aluminum foil until it's done. Inspired by his method, I like to grill the fish on a pre-heated BBQ, and cook it until the surface of the fish caramelizes nicely, turns golden brown and flesh becomes flakey. It works deliciously well, however broiling the fish keeps the flesh more intact and makes for a tighter presentation. Both taste great!