My mom picked up some amazingly fresh cod and Portuguese corn bread from the fish store on Friday night. After wrestling with what to make, I pan roasted the cod and concocted a seafood bisque inspired cream sauce to go with it.

I started the sauce with pancetta, shallots, and garlic, and then used a sweet cream sherry that’s sometimes used in lobster bisque. I added hot smoked paprika and cayenne into the base of seafood stock, cream, and tomato paste for some spice, and a dash of Vietnamese fish sauce to finish. I really love using fish sauce; I think it gives it extra depth to the sauce, or “umami” as they say now. I spooned the sauce over the roasted fish and toasted some of the bread for dunking.

I was cooking in a hurry so I didn’t exactly measure ingredients, but I wanted to get down the rough recipe. We were both surprised at how well it turned out. It’s seriously a keeper!

Pan-Roasted Cod with a Spicy Seafood Bisque Sauce

Olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Shallot, chopped
Garlic, chopped
Tomato paste
Cream sherry
Seafood stock
Heavy cream
Smoked paprika (hot)
Cayenne pepper
Vietnamese fish sauce
Chives, chopped


I first sautéed some pieces of pancetta with some olive oil. When crisp, I transferred it to a paper towel lined plate, leaving the grease in the skillet.

Then, I seasoned the fish liberally with salt and pepper and then cut into two big pieces. I placed it in the cast iron skillet (with the pancetta grease and olive oil) over medium-high heat until the bottom started to brown. Then, I transferred to a 450 degree oven and cooked until it was flaky. It took no more than 10 minutes once in the oven, but the time totally depends on the thickness of the fish.

When the fish was done, I took it out of the skillet and covered with foil to keep warm. I immediately put the skillet back on the stove and added some chopped shallot and garlic. When these started to soften, I added a little bit of tomato paste and then a splash of cream sherry. After about a minute, I added probably equal amounts of seafood stock and heavy cream along with some smoked paprika and cayenne. I let this reduce for a few minutes and added just a dash of fish sauce.

As the sauce was cooking, I just sliced the bread and toasted under the broiler. This type of bread is new to me. It’s a little bit sweet, but not sugary sweet like the cornbread you’re probably used to. It’s also very dense, so it’s perfect for sopping up the extra sauce.

To serve, I spooned the sauce over the fish in shallow bowls and topped with some chopped chives and the crisp pancetta. I totally forgot to add the pancetta until after we dug in, but I highly recommend it!

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