Monday, April 2, 2007

Sable with Balsamic Orange Ginger Glaze

The sable is back! Well, maybe it never even left the markets on the west cost, but here in the east, we've had to live without sable for many months now. When I saw it at New Deal, I was so excited, I cooked it 3 times in one week.

You might have seen sable on restaurant menus as "black cod." I always found this misnomer really funny, since this Alaskan fish is way more delicious than cod and does not even belong to the cod family. Let's face it -- cod is a vehicle for sauce. Sable, on the other hand, is fatty, sweet, and just luscious. I am guessing it got its "black cod" name the same way Patagonian toothfish got it's "Chilean sea bass" name. Who wants to eat a toothfish or sable? But a bass or a cod is a totally different story. Just comes to show that consumers will always choose familiarity over deliciousness.

Sable is so versatile, you can do pretty much anything to it: roast, poach, steam, broil, sear, smoke. The only technique I would stay away from is grilling. Sable is so delicate, it might fall through the rack. Yesterday, I needed a 20 minute dinner, so I decided to coat it with a little glaze assembled out of whatever I had on hand and broil. I served it with orange juice and ginger braised carrots.

Sable with Balsamic Orange Ginger Glaze

Fish substitutions: salmon, chilean sea bass, halibut, steelhead trout, or pretty much any relatively thick fillets that are not too dense.

Serves 4

4 sable fillets without skin (6oz each)
2 Tbsp honey
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp orange juice
1 Tbsp orange zest
1 inch of ginger, peeled and minced
2 tsp oil
Salt and pepper
  1. Preheat the broiler and wrap a broiler pan with foil.
  2. Season sable generously with salt and pepper on all sides.
  3. Combine honey, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, orange juice, orange zest, ginger, and oil. Mix well and coat sable with this mixture. Sable should be only lightly coated, as too much of the glaze can burn under the broiler.
  4. Broil sable 4 inches away from the flame just until browned, 3-5 minutes. Pour the rest of the glaze on top of sable and finish in the 425F oven until done. The total cooking time (broiling plus baking) should be about 8 minutes per inch of thickness. To test for doneness, separate the flakes in the thickest part and look inside. Sable is done when a trace of translucency remains in the center.

Note: I did not forget to tell you to flip the fish. Cooking it only on one side allows for glaze to really caramelize on top.


Rachel said...


Nate said...

Excellent presentation. I just ate and I'm suddenly hungry again.

We often see sable as "butterfish" out here on the west coast.

Megan said...

This looks wonderful! I must try this cooking method - it sounds so tasty and elegant. Thanks for all the great tips on fish of all kinds. I learn so much from your blog!

Helen said...

Hi Nate,

I heard that sable goes by butterfish, though I haven't seen it labeled this way in Boston markets. Thanks for letting me know that it's a common name on the west coast. There is a whole family of species called butterfish, but not surprisingly, they are not related to sable.


~M said...

Blue Ginger in Wellesley's most famous dish is their Alaskan butterfish. Helen, can you offer substitutions for sable, if there are any? Thanks!

Helen said...

Hi ~M,

Thanks for reminding me :) I totally forgot about substitutions. Just updated the post to include them. They are at the beginning of the recipe.


Katerina said...

Wow this looks great! I love this but haven't ever cooked it. Great picture too.

It really puts me to shame as I sit here eating the frozen pasta out of the vending machine at work...

Helen said...

Hi Katerina,

Frozen pasta is nothing to be ashamed of. I had my share of those during the crunch time of my software development days ;)

But I hope you'll get a chance to spend some time in the kitchen soon and make something truly wonderful.


Terry B said...

I'm glad to hear your assessment of cod, Helen. My couple of tries at doing anything with it were disappointing.

By the way, I just pan seared some salmon in my new apartment's kitchen with the vented stove. Success! I can now cook fish without fear.

Helen said...

Hi Terry,

Congrats on your new kitchen! Isn't ventilation wonderful. The hood over my stove doesn't vent to the outside either, so it's not of great use. If we ever move, I am definitely putting in a real hood (it's a bit complicated here in a condo ;)


Katerina said...

The shame of being identified as a Software Dev purely by my eating habits...

Fully intending on cooking tonight though even if it is simple pasta and nothing fabulous like sablefish!

Jeffrey M. said...

hey about a quick description of your orange/ginger braised carrots. mmm...thanks.

Helen said...

Hi Jeffrey,

For the carrots, I just put chopped carrots in a pot with the zest and juice of 1 orange, and about a tablespoon each of ginger, honey, and butter. I also added some very thinly sliced lemongrass, but that's optional. Season to taste with salt and pepper, cover and cook on medium heat until tender.


Jeffrey M. said...

nice. carrots sound tasty...thanks.