Adapted from Alfred Portale's 12 Seasons Cookbook by Alfred Portale with Andrew Friedman.

Makes 4 servings

Thinking Ahead: The beans must be soaked overnight

I've written of salt cod twice in this book (pages 94, 168), so it seems only fair to include one dish featuring cod itself, especially in December because this fish is the most traditional of all Christmas selections. While the dried and salted variety enjoys greater culinary celebrity, the original has become increasingly popular in recent years. I find that its relatively mild flavor can be a very effective and enjoyable base on which to build recipes in a variety of styles.

This one is as notable for its range of textures as for its assemblage of flavors. The Savoy cabbage provides a crucial counterpoint to the soft, flaky fish, and the same is true of the white runners an heirloom variety of Italian gigante beans that I happen to love. Their huge size and creamy mouth-feel register on the palate not unlike mashed potatoes. It's unusual to serve black truffles with Christmas cod, but here they add real excitement and elegance to what is a remarkably light main course considering the impact it makes.

Cabbage and Bean Ragout

  • 2/3 cup dry white runners (cannellini beans may be substituted), soaked overnight in cold water to cover and drained
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
  • 1 small head Savoy cabbage (about 1 pound), cut into 1/2 inch-wide shreds
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 ounce black truffle, very thinly sliced

In a medium saucepan, combine the beans, onion, garlic, and thyme. Add enough cold water to cover by about 2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about 20 minutes. Season with salt and continue cooking about 20 minutes longer, until the beans are tender but still firm. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. The cooking time will depend on the dryness of the beans before they were cooked.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the cabbage for 3 to 4 minutes, until barely tender. Drain and plunge it into ice water. Drain again and, using your hands, squeeze out the excess water.

In a saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the carrot for about 2 minutes, until tender. Drain and set aside.

Transfer the reserved cooking liquid to a saucepan and bring it to a boil over high heat. Add the cream and bring to a simmer. Cook gently for about 5 minutes, until slightly thickened. Stir in the butter, piece by piece, to enrich the sauce. Season with salt and pepper.

Reduce the heat to low. Add the cooked beans, cabbage, and carrot to the saucepan. Stir in the truffle and cook for about 6 minutes, until the ragout is heated through and infused with the earthy flavor of the truffle. Cover and set aside to keep warm.

Cod and Assembly

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 4 cod fillets, each weighing 6 to 7 ounces
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced fresh chives

In a 10-inch saute pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Season both sides of the cod with salt and pepper, and cook for about 3 minutes, until golden. Turn and cook about 4 minutes longer, until golden brown on both sides and opaque in the center.

Using a slotted spoon, spoon some ragout into the center of a warmed serving platter. Arrange to cod fillets on top and spoon the remaining sauce and ragout over the fish. Garnish with the chives and serve.