My simple recipe for pan seared cod with lemon sauce is a fast weeknight dinner which is full of flavor! Tender fish, golden brown crust, and a lemon, caper, and parsley sauce perfect for spooning over rice or pasta or sopping up with some crusty bread.
I love thick-cut cod for dinner. It’s meaty, versatile, and low in fat. All of which makes cod a regular in my dinner rotation. However it always seems so simple, so I haven’t posted very many cod recipes here!
A few, like my parents’ all time favorite of my recipes: Oven Fried Cod with Cara Cara Salsa; and a great Baked Mediterranean Cod (one dish meal!) have made the cut. But I really need to share some of my other cod recipes.
Luckily, for all fish recipe fans out there, I have been looking at my diet and have decided to bring my cooking more in line with the Mediterranean Diet. I’ve always taken inspiration from that diet, but it’s time to work more Mediterranean diet recipes into my life and into my cooking blog.
What does it mean to follow the Mediterranean diet?
- More fish
- More vegetarian/vegetable recipes
- More grains
- More simple, fruit forward desserts
So, I have been working on fish and seafood recipes, grain bowls, salads, vegetable soups, and fruit desserts. All foods I’ve been making right along, but I’m putting them more in the forefront of our daily meals, and making fewer meat-based meals and sugary treats.
Don’t worry though! I’m not going to entirely give up baking (I love it too much) or Italian-American comfort food (I did just post a totally awesome short rib ragu). However, we could all do with more whole grains, more fish, more vegetables, and less sugar/cream in our lives.
Yes? Good! Let’s start with some cod with lemon sauce. 🙂
Baked vs Fried
The concept for this recipe started with the idea of a pan seared then baked cod, rather similar to my pan roasted chicken thigh recipes. And this can work if you are doing a proper breading on the cod which will act like the skin of the chicken. But, with dredged cod, no matter what I did the flour was gummy and the cod was soggy rather than crispy. This just would not do!
Other than that, the flavor was good. We liked the seasoned flour and the lemon sauce with the cod. Which meant that a simple shift was in order. Instead of searing then baking, just searing gave me crispy, golden-brown cod with fully cooked flour.
For cod dredged in flour? The answer is clear. Frying wins over baking.
How to pan sear cod without sticking?
Seriously, a well seasoned cast iron pan is amazing. You can cook fish with little or no sticking (sometimes a bit of coating sticks, but that just makes the sauce better), use high heat, and pop it in the oven if you want. Cast iron is the best and everyone should have a pan or two.
Worried about cleaning your cast iron?
Don’t! Cast iron does need a little maintenance, but you can use soap and you can use a scrubby sponge to get it clean. I scrub my cast iron every time I use it and it’s well seasoned and cooks like a dream.
The secret is to wipe it down with vegetable oil, wipe most of that off (you want the thinnest coat possible), and heat it on the cook top for a few minutes to get all the water evaporated after you scrub it. That will keep your cast iron happy! (And – if you need an extra deep cleaning – you can pour in some kosher salt and some oil and then scrub it with a paper towel. That gets it especially shiny. 🙂 It’s also a great plan if you want to go from…say cooking fish to making dessert in your cast iron.)
This meal takes me about 30 minutes to make, including steaming up some veggies and making the orzo. And it’s a family pleasing favorite around here. Win/win in my book!
– Happy Eating, Annemarie
Thick cut cod is pan seared in a mixture of olive oil and butter to produce a golden brown crust and then served with a lemon, parsley, and caper sauce to make a simple and healthy weeknight meal.
- 1 1/2 lb thick cut cod fillet, cut into 4-5 pieces
- 4 tbsp fresh lemon juice, divided, one tbsp for the fish and 3 tbsp for the sauce
- 2-3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 5 medium cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 tbsp capers
- 1/2 cup dry vermouth, or dry white wine
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 dash cayenne powder
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
Sprinkle one tablespoon of lemon juice over the cod fillets and set them aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Allow the lemon juice to sit on the cod at least 15 minutes, up to 30 minutes.
In a shallow bowl, mix together all the seasoned flour ingredients. Pat the fish dry and dredge in the seasoned flour, shaking off the excess.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the butter in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until the pan is hot and the oil is shimmering. Add the cod and cook for 5-6 minutes on the first side. The fish will take a couple of minutes to release from the pan. Once it does, keep an eye on it and check for browning. When it's a deep, golden brown, turn the fish.
Continue cooking the fish on the other side until it is browned and the fish is cooked through, about another 5-6 minutes. Add another tablespoon of olive oil if needed.
Remove the fish to a serving dish and let it rest while you make the sauce.
Add the garlic and capers to the pan and cook, stirring constantly for 30 seconds. Add the vermouth to deglaze. Bring it to a boil and scrape up all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Boil for 1 minute. Then add the lemon juice and parsley. Stir to combine and bring to a boil again. Immediately pour the sauce over the fish and serve.
- Thick cut cod is often called captain's cut cod. If you can't find thick cut cod, you can use thinner pieces, just reduce the cooking time. Either way, try to find pieces which are all the same thickness so they all cook together.
- I like to serve this recipe with some simple cooked orzo tossed with olive oil and a steamed vegetable.