Monday, November 30, 2015

best thing i ate last week: cod confit a la catalana at Cobaya Niu

Sometimes I will read a dish description and have no clue how it could possibly taste good. This was one of those. The chef was Deme Lomas, the spot was Niu Kitchen, which was playing host to our 58th Cobaya dinner on Monday night. The dish was cod with dry figs, roasted onions, mustard and honey. Why would anyone put all those sweet things with a piece of fish?

Shows what I know. Here, the residual saltiness of the rehydrated bacalao, all unctuous and shiny, was balanced against the sweetness of the figs and honey; the zing of mustard for a bit of contrast, a nest of golden caramelized onions as a bridge between savory and sweet. The combination of salt cod and honey actually has a long history in Catalan cooking, which is Chef Lomas' focus at Niu Kitchen. Here's Colman Andrews in his book "Catalan Cuisine: Europe's Last Great Culinary Secret":
I remember a game I used to play with friends, in younger years, of trying to invent the most unlikely or revolting-sounding food combinations possible – things, I recall, like raw oysters with chocolate sauce and pineapple-clam cake. This dish, I imagine, must sound a bit like one of those to many readers – or at least like some mindless nouvelle (or nova) excess. In fact, though, salt cod with honey is neither nouvelle nor revolting. It's an old Catalan mountain dish, first mentioned in print in the seventeenth century and said to have been an invention of necessity – the union of two easily stored, well-preserved ingredients, eaten together simply to provide a kind of calorie-loading, essential for survival in cold climates during the cropless winter months.
The most exciting dishes can be those you don't expect to work. This one was the best thing I ate last week.

1 comment:

  1. This looks incredible, and from its description I'd definitely love to give it a try. Thanks for sharing this!