Dining date: 3/24/12
Black cod with miso is a dish commonly found in Japanese restaurants in LA. As far as I’ve read, it was popularized by Nobu Matsuhisa (being one of his signature dishes), though a number of Japanese chefs/restaurants have their own renditions (Roy Yamaguchi of Roy’s is another popular one that comes to mind). It’s a silky, buttery piece of fish complemented by a sweet miso marinade. I’ve always thought it would be kind of hard to make, but the recipe looked deceptively simple. A handful of Japanese ingredients are mixed together to create a marinade which is the basis for the miso flavor. Once marinated, the fish is carefully seared leaving a charred exterior and moist, flaky interior.
Nobu has a recipe for the dish on Food & Wine’s website. Here it is:
3 tablespoons mirin
3 tablespoons sake
1/2 cup white miso paste
1/3 cup sugar
Six 6- to 7-ounce skinless black cod fillets, about 1 1/2 inches thick
Vegetable oil, for grilling
1. In a small saucepan, bring the mirin and sake to a boil. Whisk in the miso until dissolved. Add the sugar and cook over moderate heat, whisking, just until dissolved. Transfer the marinade to a large baking dish and let cool. Add the fish and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
2. Preheat the oven to 400°. Heat a grill pan and oil it. Scrape the marinade off the fish. Add the fish and cook over high heat until browned, about 2 minutes. Flip the fish onto a heavy rimmed baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes, until flaky. Transfer to plates.
I found everything I needed at my local Nijiya market. Well, I think so. I couldn’t find anything that was marked “white miso” specifically, so I just bought the lighter of the two options. Hah.
Also, I had a hard time finding the “perfect” fillet. I wanted a relatively large, thick piece. Nijiya sold small sections that were about 1 inch thick, whereas Whole Foods/Bristol Farms had thinner fillets of about half an inch thick. I would end up experimenting with both. I’m not sure which one I liked better – I think I liked the taste of the thicker sections better, but found the large filet to be a more satisfying presentation.
Making the marinade was easy enough, mixing in a few ingredients (mirin, sake, sugar and miso). The mixture was smooth and light when hot, but more of a dense sludge when cooled.
With each piece of fish, I tried to marinate it at least overnight…preferably a full 24 hours.
The marinade was wiped off (leaving a little bit of a residual layer), and it was time to cook the fish. I found this part to be fairly challenging; the sugar in the marinade caramelized very quickly, so leaving the fish on one side too long meant a burnt-looking charred piece of fish. Careful managing of heat and timing were crucial.
My pieces of fish were thin enough that I didn’t need to finish them in the oven – they cooked through pretty quickly.
The amount of caramelization has been somewhat inconsistent, but I’ve been happy with the results. I liked the delicate crust of the char in tandem with the moist, buttery interior of the fish. There isn’t a lot of work involved and the results have been pretty tasty. No wonder this has become such a popular dish in restaurants.