This Pan-Seared Cod with Kentucky Bourbon features flaky white cod topped with a sweet bourbon sauce. It’s perfect for date night or Derby Day! Best of all– it’s ready in about 15 minutes!
Years and years ago, before I happily devoured seafood day after day, I ordered a bourbon-glazed fish at a restaurant… and was AMAZED. Back then, I wasn’t really sure what bourbon tasted like, and I wasn’t even sure what types of fish I liked best, let alone how to fix fish at home.
What I realized that day, though, is that bourbon with fish is a fantabulously delicious combination, and I wanted more! This Kentucky Bourbon Pan-Seared Cod is perfect for a fancy-schmancy date night and bourbon-filled Derby Day parties, but is so quick, easy, and delicious that you could make it for a weeknight dinner too!
Buying Quality Seafood
A couple of months back, my in-laws tried a cod recipe from a meal delivery company, and fell in love. In fact, they loved it so much that they immediately went out, bought more cod, and followed the recipe again. Sadly, it wasn’t as delicious the second time. Why not?
The fish. No matter how delicious a recipe SHOULD be, if the fish itself doesn’t start out healthy and delicious, the end result won’t be as wonderful as it should have been.
How can you tell if you’re getting quality fish? For one thing, you can look for sustainably sourced fish. If you aren’t sure what that means, it’s basically choosing to buy fish that is farmed in a way that keeps the oceans healthy.
In other words, the companies catching the fish should do their best to make sure they aren’t disrupting the ecosystems they’re working in. They’re trying to keep the planet and fish populations happy and healthy, while still allowing hungry humans to enjoy seafood for dinner.
What does this have to do with your dinner? Obviously, we all want a healthy planet, but on a smaller, less grandiose scale– Healthy fish TASTE BETTER. When you’re walking through the supermarket, and you reach for fish, pause for a second to compare your options.
What should you look for? The number one thing I look for is transparency. Where did this fish come from? Does the label tell me? Does the company selling the fish give me enough information to find out if this fish is sustainable?
If thinking through each and every fish purchase seems like a lot of work– I agree. My favorite way to buy fish is to find a source that I trust, and stick with it. That way, when I’m in a hurry, I know what to look for.
For the last year or so, my absolute favorite seafood supplier has been Orca Bay. They clearly label their seafood– how it was caught, where it’s from, and even what specific fishing zone it was caught in. I like that– a lot.
Order Orca Bay Online: Use my Ambassador Code: champagnetastes for 15% off!
Find Orca Bay locally: Use their store finder.
Making Pan-Seared Cod with Kentucky Bourbon
For this decadent Kentucky Bourbon Pan-Seared Cod, you’re going to need bourbon, honey (or sorghum syrup),* balsamic vinegar, a little butter and olive oil, and a few fresh herbs. Oh, and cod. Don’t forget the cod! Since some cod is overfished, try to stick with a Pacific cod. I use Orca Bay’s wild caught Alaskan cod.
Once you’ve got all your ingredients, start by drying off your fish. The drier the fish, the more easily it will sear. Pat it dry, and then set it aside.
Meanwhile, get all the ingredients for your ‘gastrique.’ (‘Gastrique’ is a French word that means… ‘extra super-duper-fancy-pants sauce,’ — I believe that’s a direct translation. Don’t quote me.)
Combine the bourbon and balsamic, and set it aside (but within arm’s reach). Pour the honey into a small saucepan over medium heat, and it should start bubbling within 1-2 minutes. Once the bubbles start, stir it with a wooden spoon until the honey turns a dark amber color (about 2-3 more minutes).
As soon as– and I do mean AS SOON AS– the honey darkens, grab the bourbon-balsamic mixture and, standing as far back from the pan as possible to avoid getting splashed, pour the mixture in. Continue stirring for another couple of minutes, until the sauce starts to thicken.
Set the sauce to the side, and get ready to cook the fish. (Keep in mind that if your sauce cools down too much while the fish is cooking, it will thicken up and be hard to pour. If this happens, simply put it back on medium heat for about a minute, or until it heats up again.)
Since cod takes a little longer to sear than a thinner fish would, I like to use both butter and olive oil when I’m searing it. That way, the butter doesn’t brown as quickly and the oil doesn’t start smoking. Heat your butter and oil in a heavy bottom pan over medium-high heat.
Once the pan is hot, add the cod and DO NOT TOUCH IT. Leave it alone, and set a timer for 4 minutes. Then, flip it, and cook it for another 4 minutes. When it’s finished, the flesh should be white and flaky in the center, with seared golden edges.
Drizzle the seared cod with your bourbon gastrique, and top everything off with some fresh herbs. Serve it right away, and savor each bite of this decadently rich fish dinner!
Quick Tip: Sorghum syrup is a thick syrup made from sugar cane, and is popular in Kentucky. It has a texture similar to molasses, and works really well in this recipe! If you can find it, give it a try! Otherwise, honey will work perfectly.
Pan-Seared Cod with Kentucky Bourbon
Easy Date Night Dinner
- 2 cod fillets (~4 oz each) (recommendation- Orca Bay cod)
- 1 TB butter
- 1/2 TB olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 cup bourbon
- 1/4 cup honey OR sorghum syrup
- diced green onion, parsley, and or basil to serve (optional)
Pat cod dry, and then pat it dry again. Allow it to come to room temperature.
Meanwhile, pour balsamic vinegar and bourbon together and set aside. Keep the balsamic-bourbon mixture within arm's reach, so that you can grab it quickly when the honey is ready.
Pour honey into a small, heavy bottom pot and turn heat to medium. In about 1-2 minutes, the honey should start to bubble. Stir it with a wooden spoon until the honey darkens in color and turns amber (about 3 more minutes). (*Note- The caramelizing honey will be EXTREMELY hot. Do not touch it or attempt to taste it at this point.)
Carefully, standing back from the pot in case of splash-back, pour the balsamic and bourbon mixture into the pot with the honey. Stir, and cook for 1-2 more minutes. Take sauce off the heat, and set aside. (*Note- If the sauce cools and thickens too much while the fish is cooking, simply set it back on the heat for about a minute, or until it heats up again.)
Heat butter and olive oil in a heavy bottom pan over medium-high heat.
Salt both sides of the cod.
Set cod in hot pan, and DO NOT TOUCH IT. Set a timer for 4 minutes, and don't touch the cod until the timer goes off. (If your butter smokes a little, lower the heat slightly.)
Next, use a thin metal spatula to flip the cod. If it sticks to the pan, wait another 30 seconds. The fish will release when it's done cooking. Cook for another 4 minutes, and transfer to plates.
Serve fish immediately with bourbon sauce, along with fresh herbs (optional).
*Calorie Information was calculated per serving using My Fitness Pal.