Sauteed Cod with Garlic-Shallot Butter and Drunken Spinach

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When you start with fabulously fresh ingredients, it’s easy to make a delicious meal in no time flat. The main thing to know about cod is that you don’t want to overcook it. (Don’t worry, I’ll explain how.)

For this dish, fresh cod is coated in rubbed sage, salt, and white pepper, then browned quickly in a mixture of buttery shallots and garlic.

The fish gets flipped, then the pan gets deglazed with dry white wine and covered to steam. A few handfuls of fresh baby spinach take a quick bath in the buttery wine broth, then the dish gets finished with a squeeze or two of lemon juice.

Now, whole fish fillets are uneven…one end is meatier and thicker, and the other is thin. To keep the fish from overcooking and drying out, it gets a quick saute to develop color and flavor, then steams—covered—to finish cooking and keep it moist.

Serve with a side of fluffy, buttered jasmine rice. Sop up the fragrant sauce with a hunk of crusty garlic bread.

Cod and sustainable seafood

Some types of fish are more endangered these days than others. I’m not an expert in sustainable seafood by a longshot, but I try to make better choices when I can.

From what I’ve read, Atlantic Cod is dangerously overfished. Look for Pacific Cod, a.k.a. Alaska Cod, True Cod, or Grey Cod.

Jacqueline Church, a fellow Boston writer and foodie extraordinaire, runs the amazing Teach a Man to Fish Sustainable Seafood Event. Check it out for loads of great information. Author and New York Times’ regular Mark Bittman also has a good article on the topic.

Fish by phone

If you haven’t heard about it, The Blue Ocean Institute operates a FishPhone.

Just send a text message to 30644 with the word (all caps) “FISH”, followed by the name of the fish you’re thinking about buying. They’ll send you a text back to let you know if the fish in question is endangered. You can also take a peek through their seafood guide.

iPhone users can download the Seafood Guide by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is a similar app.

Get to the recipe, Mouse!

Yep, yep! Here you go.

One quick word of caution about fish bones

There are almost always a few�even in boneless fillets. Check your fish well before cooking, and yank any stray bones out with a pair of needle-nose pliers.

How will you know they’re there? Run your index finger up and down the body of the fish, pressing lightly. Anything sharp and pointy feeling has to go. With a little exploration of that area, it’s easy enough to find the end of the bone and remove it.

Sauteed Cod with Garlic-Shallot Butter and Drunken Spinach

1 1/4 lbs. boneless fresh cod fillet (or individual cod steaks)
3 Tbls. butter
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, mashed
1 Tbls. rubbed sage
1/4 tsp. white pepper
kosher salt
1/2 cup dry white wine
2-3 cups fresh baby spinach, lightly packed
1/2 lemon, cut in two pieces for easy squeezing

Serves 2

Sauteed Cod with Garlic-Shallot Butter: Season the fish

Unwrap your cod and set it on the counter.

If your fillet still has its tippy tail end, slice if off. Steaming will help keep your whole fish moist, but it’s hard to keep this end from drying out.

Toss that little skinny bit, or fry it up quickly for a heavenly treat for a very well behaved cat or dog.

Sprinkle one side of the fish with the sage, white pepper, and kosher salt to taste.

Pat them down to help them stick to the fish.

Let the fish sit for a minute while you saute the shallots and garlic in butter.

Sauteed Cod with Garlic-Shallot Butter: Saute the garlic & shallots

Put the butter in a large, non-stick pan on the stove. Melt the butter over medium heat.

Add the mashed garlic and minced shallot to the butter.

Stir to coat with butter. Saute for a minute or two over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Toss in a little kosher salt if you like.

Cook until the shallots start to turn translucent and brown a little bit, like this:

Sauteed Cod with Garlic-Shallot Butter: Saute the cod

Add the fish to the pan, sage-side down. Put it right on top of the shallot and garlic.

Saute on medium heat for 2-3 minutes, until it’s lightly browned on the bottom.

After a few minutes, flip it over. (Use 2 spatulas if you have ’em.)

This is an awkward move, but don’t fret if it doesn’t flip smoothly. The fish isn’t cooked all the way through yet, so it should hold together nicely in one piece. Just flip it over, straighten it out, and you’re good to go.

It should look about like this, and be coated in browned sage-y, shallot-y goodness.

Sauteed Cod with Garlic-Shallot Butter: Deglaze & simmer

Add the white wine to the pan.

Cover the pan and let it simmer for another 2-3 minutes. This is to help ensure that the thick end of your fish cooks through.

After a few minutes, uncover the pan. Scoot the fish over to one side of the pan. Toss in the fresh baby spinach in the spot you just cleared.

With tongs, toss the spinach in the buttery wine broth so that it’s coated. Keep the heat on medium, so the broth is just bubbling.

Squeeze both your pieces of lemon over the fish and spinach. This will brighten up the flavor (and help keep the spinach a vibrant green).

Toss the lemon pieces in the pan and simmer for another minute or two, until the spinach is wilted but barely cooked.

Wait, it’s fish! How do I know when it’s done?

Check to be sure that the fish is done by pressing on the thickest end.

Sauteed Cod with Garlic-Shallot Butter and Drunken Spinach

It should be flaky in consistency and opaque in the center (take a peek if you like).

The outside should be lightly browned and covered in bits of caramelized garlic and shallot.

The spinach should be a deep but vibrant green, and still have a little bite to it.

Cut the fish into pieces and serve with some of the spinach on the side.

Once you’ve plated your fish and veggie, spoon a little of the wine broth over the fish.



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Copyright 2008-2009 The Hungry Mouse/Jessica B. Konopa. All rights reserved.

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Jessie Cross is a cookbook author and creator of The Hungry Mouse, a monster online food blog w/500+ recipes. When she's not shopping for cheese or baking pies, Jessie works as an advertising copywriter in Boston. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and two small, fluffy wolves.


  1. Oh this looks so yummy and so much better than the frozen chicken nuggets and fries GRUMPY is cooking tonight. ;) lol I cook him baby back ribs and he makes me pre-packaged food. Sigh.
  2. Jessie,. I buy 4 packs of baby spinach a week.Eat it daily.This site is a goal mine of ideas for me. Thanks for the recipe.
  3. Thanks, gals! Honey B--Awww, that Grumpy loves you! :D Bunny--Oh, fantastic, thank you! The spinach in this recipe is really meant to be a small side dish/garnish. If you want, double up on the spinach, since it shrinks so much when you cook it. Cheers! +Jessie
  4. Love the new logo! I love cod but since it is all imported here, it is darn expensive, about $70 (our currency) per kg. And it's not even fresh, most are frozen. But I was thinking of buying some next weekend for the Chinese New Year reunion dinner where we'll use it as one of our ingredients for the steamboat. Maybe I'll save some to try your recipe. Foong
  5. I know I'm late to the party here, but just wanted to thank you for posting this! I never try a recipe for the first time when guests are present, but previous recipes I've tried from your site were so tasty I went ahead and gave this a whirl when my sister came over for dinner. I substituted grouper for the cod, and sauteed baby leeks from my garden due to the increased headcount, but it was a major hit. Even my notoriously picky three year old son liked the 'fishies', and that is a stamp of approval that guarantees this goes into regular rotation at my table. You've cemented yourself as my favorite food blog. Thank you so much!
  6. I made this dish tonight. It was very flavorful. My fish didn't brown like yours though and I didn't want to cook it any longer for fear of overcooking the fish and burning the garlic which would have given it a bitter taste. I will definitely try this again. Thanks for the recipe!
  7. Made this for dinner tonight and boy was it good. Will definitely make this again. I added pine nuts along with the shallots and garlic.