There are many reasons to love black cod — it is sustainably fished, full of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and wonderfully buttery when cooked. Here's one more: a classic Japanese recipe for black cod that makes an easy, elegant dinner for guests or a quick main dish you can prep over the weekend.
This recipe is adapted from Nobu: The Cookbook, which my partner gifted to me many years ago after we visited Nobu's restaurant and swooned over the omakase tasting menu. It's a very simple dish; there is some advance preparation, but it's easy and quick.
Three days before cooking the fish, you make the four-ingredient miso marinade and then marinate the fish in it, sealed in a covered container in the fridge. Cooking is quick — just a quick sear on the stovetop and then a few minutes in the oven. This makes a very light yet filling meal that is elegant and looks like it took a lot of work, but it really doesn't. The miso marinade adds a sweetness to the silky and buttery black cod.
This recipe is a classic Japanese fish preparation, made famous by the chef Nobu Matsuhisa, and it's popular for a reason: Soaked for several days in the salty-sweet miso marinade, black cod becomes silky, deeply seasoned, and completely irresistible.
Although I've enjoyed miso black cod many times in Japanese restaurants, I had never made it at home until I tried this recipe. The preparation is very simple and perfect for serving guests, since you do most of the work two or three days before and quickly broil it just before serving. (This also makes it a great option for a weeknight meal that can be prepped over the weekend.)
And the resulting fish is impressive and quite foolproof. The high oil content of black cod makes it forgiving — it is a difficult fish to overcook. If you want to incorporate more fish into your diet, but are feeling a bit intimidated, this is an excellent recipe to try. It pairs well with simple vegetable recipes, like spinach in sesame dressing and plain rice. (I cooked brown rice with a small amount of Thai black rice, which gives it a deep purple color and slightly nuttier flavor.)
1/4 cup sake
1/4 cup mirin
4 tablespoons white miso paste
3 tablespoons sugar 4 black cod fillets, about 1/2 pound each
Two to 3 days beforehand, make the miso marinade and marinate the fish. Bring the sake and 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, add the miso paste, and whisk. When the miso has dissolved completely, turn the heat up to high again and add the sugar, whisking constantly to ensure that the sugar doesn't burn on the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat once the sugar is fully dissolved. Cool to room temperature.
Pat the black cod fillets thoroughly dry 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. Leave to marinate in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.
To cook the fish: Preheat oven to 400°F. Heat an oven-proof skillet over high heat on the stovetop. Lightly wipe off any excess miso clinging to the fillets, but don't rinse it off. Film the pan with a little oil, then place the fish skin-side-up on the pan and cook until the bottom of the fish browns and blackens in spots, about 3 minutes. Flip and continue cooking until the other side is browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to the oven and bake for 5 to 10 minutes, until fish is opaque and flakes easily.
Instead of cooking the fish on the stovetop, you can do this step on an outdoor grill or under the broiler in your oven.