19 August 2011

Patricia Wells Seared Pancetta Wrapped Cod on a Bed of Lemon Risotto

Seared Pancetta Wrapped Cod on a Bed of Lemon Risotto

Patricia Wells is one talented and enterprenurial American lady who is living her dream life in France, splitting her time between Paris and Provence. Perhaps I can go so far as to say, she is living my dream life carrying on a love affair, not with an individual (although I am sure she loves her husband), but with a region of France, a centuries-old stone farmhouse, and a cuisine. With her many books she is considered one of the foremost authorities on French cuisine and received the Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres for her contributions to French culture. She has written eight cookbooks altogether, at the time of writing, full of easy yet sophisticated recipes which has her being credited with taking the mystery out of French cuisine and making it less intimidating. Julia Child paved the way but Patricia Wells perfected it.

 Her groundbreaking "Food Lover’s Guide to Paris," which debuted in 1984, was hailed as “the book that broke the secret code to Paris.” For 25 years Patricia was the restaurant critic for The International Herald Tribune and is the only woman--and only foreigner--to serve as restaurant critic for a French publication, the newsweekly L’Express. Patricia is the author of 11 books including the memoir "We’ve Always Had Paris…and Provence," which she wrote with her husband Walter, the former executive editor of the Herald Tribune. In 2011, Patricia will publish two books: "Salad as a Meal" and "Simply Truffles."
Patricia and her husband Walter have lived in Paris for nearly 30 years. Together, they also run a popular cooking school At Home With Patricia Wells in both Paris and Provence. For several weeks each year, Patricia and Walter open their 18th-century Provençal home in Vaison la Romaine to a small number of participants hungry to soak up the food, wine, and culture of the region. The five-day program includes hands-on cooking classes (using as much home-grown produce as possible), plus guided visits to markets, vineyards, shops, and local restaurants. Wouldn't we all love to go!!

Of her life in France she says, "In ways that only people who share a special passion can, we feed upon one another, understanding that we will all become equally excited and grateful for a perfectly ripe and flawlessly grape harvest, about a particularly successful truffle hunt, a second season’s crop of figs, or the beauty of an olive tree laden with a record bounty of ripe fruit. I know that we all feel equally fortunate to reap such harvests, and share mutual disappointment when the rains, excessive heat or drought, even hail, derail plans for a perfect season."

Gourmet Live brought out a list of the 50 most influential women in food...Fifty women game changers. Some are chefs, some are food writers, and some are women who are passionate about the creative process. You could certainly add or detract women from this list, but no matter what these women have all influenced us in one way or another. Being a woman and passionate about food myself I wanted to explore and join Mary on this journey and not only learn from the masters but recreate some of their dishes to better understand what has shaped and molded them into who they are today. In doing so I have learned more about myself, and have learned more than a few new recipes and techniques. Follow us on this journey while we take an in depth exploration of these women's lives and what has made them who they are.

One of my favourite well-travelled bloggers Mary of One Perfect Bite invited bloggers to travel along on a culinary journey throughout the year. For 50 weeks we will experiment with dishes from each of the 50 influential women on "the list". Whether you agree or disagree with the authors chosen fifty and their order it will be an enjoyable and creative outlet to cook from the masters. My cohorts for this adventure can be found below. If you would like to join in  please contact Mary. This is an informal event and you have the flexibility to follow along when you can. She will be posting every Friday.

Patricia Wells #11

When I came upon this succulent and flavourful dish I knew I had to prepare it in my own home kitchen. Patricia says, "Inspired by London chef Alastair Little, who served me a version of this one winter evening in his London SoHo restaurant, this simple, flavourful dish can be prepared in a matter of minutes. Fish fillets are given a protective wrapping, either pancetta, ham, or bacon, that adds a touch of needed fat and also helps create a brilliant contrast of color and texture. The wrapping acts as a second skin, protecting and imparting flavor and texture to the final dish. I always keep a piece of Provençal ‘pancetta’ (peppered rolled pork sold as poitrine roulé) on hand and wrap my fish with paper-thin slices, sliced as thin as humanly possible without creating pieces of lace! The end result is a lovely blending of the land and the sea, the crunchy and the soft, a splash of red, white, and green.”

I decided to serve the cod with a classic lemon risotto from her collection... and the rest is history, a balance of lemon flavours paired well with the saltiness of the bacon.

What have we been up to:

Mary of One Perfect Bite - Golden Cream and Apple Tart - Tart Aux Pommes A La Creme
Val of More Than Burnt Toast - Seared Pancetta Wrapped Cod on a Bed of Lemon Risotto
Joanne of Eats Well With Others - Provence on a Plate
Susan of The Spice Garden  - Pork Tenderloin with Peppers and Chipotles
Taryn of Have Kitchen, Will Feed  - Scrubbed Toast
Heather of Girlichef  -Wedge Salad with Buttermilk-Lemon Zest Dressing
Miranda of Mangoes and Chutney - Cobb Salad with Yogurt and Lemon Dressing
Jeanette at Jeanette's Healthy Living - Zucchini Carpaccio with Avocado, Pistachios and Pistachio Oil Salad
April of Abbys Sweets
Katie of Making Michael Pollan Proud - Roasted Tomato Confit
Kathleen Van Bruinisse at Bake Away with Me - Chicken Salad with Green Beans and Tahini-Lemon Yogurt Dressing
Viola - The Life is Good Kitchen
Sue of View from The Great Island - Pasta with Green Olives and Mint
Linda of There and Back Again - Domaine St. Luc’s Almond Cookies and Lemon Mousse
Amy of Beloved Green- Watermelon and Feta Salad
Barbara of Moveable Feasts - Winemakers Cake
Kathleen of Gonna Want Seconds - Penne with Vodka Sauce.

**Seared Pancetta Wrapped Cod**
  • 4 codfish fillets, each about 6 ounces (180 g) or substitute monkfish, tilefish, grouper, or striped bass
  • 4 very thin slices of pancetta, unsmoked ham, or unsmoked bacon
  • 3 tablespoons capers
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Fresh parsley leaves, snipped with a scissors, for garnish
1. Wrap the pieces of fish in ham, bacon, or pancetta. Secure with toothpicks at each end.

2. Drain the capers, rinse well, and soak in cold water for 10 minutes to remove excess salt.

3. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Sear the wrapped pieces of fish for about 3 minutes on each side, or until the fish are firm to the touch and offer little resistance when pressed with the fingertip.

4. While the fish is cooking, in a small saucepan combine the drained capers, the remaining 4 tablespoons of oil, and the lemon juice. Stir to blend and warm gently over low heat.

5. Transfer the fish to 4 warmed plates, season very generously with pepper, and spoon the sauce on top and around the fish. Sprinkle with parsley.

Wine Suggestion: This dish calls for a rich, dry white wine: a Rhône Valley white, such as a Châteauneuf du Pape, or a California or Australian Chardonnay.

Serves 4

**Lemon Risotto (Risotto al Limone)**
  •  About 5 - 6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • Sprig of fresh mint
  • Sprig of fresh rosemary
  • Sprig of fresh sage
  • Grated zest (yellow peel) of 1 lemon
  • 4 tablespoons (2 oz) unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups Italian Arborio rice
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup (2 oz) freshly grated Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus additional for table
1. In a large saucepan, heat the stock and keep it simmering, at barely a whisper, while you prepare the risotto.

2. Stem the fresh herbs. Combine the leaves with the lemon zest and, with a large chef's knife, chop finely. Set aside.

3. In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine 2 Tbs of the butter, the oil, shallots, and salt over moderate heat. Cook, stirring, until the shallots are soft and translucent, about 3 minutes. (Do not let the shallots brown.) Add the rice, and stir until the rice is well coated with the fats, glistening and semi-translucent, 1 to 2 minutes. (This step is important for good risotto: The heat and fat will help separate the grains of rice, ensuring a creamy consistency in the end.)

4. When the rice becomes shiny and partly translucent, add a ladleful of the stock. Cook, stirring constantly, until the rice has absorbed most of the stock, 1 to 2 minutes. Add another ladleful of the simmering stock, and stir regularly until all of the broth is absorbed. Adjust the heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer. The rice should cook slowly and should always be covered with a veil of stock. Continue adding ladlefuls of stock, stirring frequently and tasting regularly, until the rice is almost tender but firm to the bite, about 17 minutes total. The risotto should have a creamy, porridge-like consistency.

5. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the remaining 2 Tbs butter, the lemon zest and herbs, lemon juice and the Parmesan. Cover and let stand off the heat for 2 minutes, to allow the flavors to blend. Taste for seasoning. Transfer to warmed shallow soup bowls, and serve immediately, passing additional cheese. Risotto waits for no one.

Serves 4 - 6

Back to the Future....

Over four years of blogging I have found many wonderful recipes to share on these pages. Some from my own kitchen, some from your creative blogs and web sites, and some from well known celebrities and chefs. I have been feeling a little nostalgic and was browsing these very pages just the other day, creeping back to the very beginning in 2006 when More Than Burnt Toast was in it's infancy and no more than "knee high to grasshopper". We all have those stellar recipes from when we first started when we were lucky enough to find one comment and have maybe one reader; in my case even before I was taking photos of the dishes I prepared. My other motivation for reconnecting with the past is to create uniform formatting on this blog and this is a fun way for me to revisit past posts.

So here are a couple of flashback recipes from the very first baby steps here at MTBT with...


You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author/owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison. Best Blogger Tips


  1. Double delicious! Not sure which has my mouthwatering more, the cod or the risotto! Have agreat weekend!

  2. What a lovely dish Val. Have you ever noticed how many French dishes have shallots? Patricia Wells absolutely does live La Bonne Vie.

    I took three of her cookbooks with us when we went to Provence and used them almost daily after trips to the market. We followed her suggestions for bistros and olive oil. I couldn't believe a cookbook would be a such a good travel guide, but when you go for the food, I recommend taking Patricia Wells along.

  3. What a combination...these two dishes sounds amazing. The cod looks perfectly cooked and I can't wait to make the lemon risotto.

  4. I love that you picked this dish, I just think that cod looks divine. I really want to give this one a try.

  5. Oh, to be a guest at your table! What a gorgeous meal! I was so flippant in this week's post, regarding Patricia Wells, but I must say, she is a wonderful discovery! And I DO feel like I have been under a rock, as far as she's concerned!

  6. I'd definitely push my chair in closer to the table for this meal!

  7. Oh, yum. I love bacon-wrapped cod...but I'm thinking I'll wrap it in prosciutto next time, it sounds divine. And the lemon risotto...that just makes this one perfect meal ;) Great tribute, Val!

  8. I'm looking forward to check out those new books.

  9. I'm really should be on this journey with all of you--well, participating that is. I'm thoroughly enjoying all the wonderful information and recipes. I need to figure out how to link into this sort of thing.

    Thanks to Sam's comment, I realize that I need yet another cookbook (or two) because I don't have any by Patricia Wells!!

    This recipe looks and sounds fabulous!


  10. The cod looks perfectly prepared. It really is a treasure of a recipe and the background information you've shared with us is wonderful. I hope you have a good day, Val. Blessings...Mary.

  11. This looks like the perfect company or date-night dinner. Thanks!

  12. What an elegant meal to prepare in honor of Patricia Wells! Thank you for sharing so much information about Mrs. Wells -she really is so deserving of recognition.

  13. Your cod looks so perfect! Love that you paired it with the lemon risotto! Beautiful!

  14. Wow what a great post followed by a great recipe. Lovely !

  15. A mouthwatering combination! A delightful meal.



  16. This fish looks simple yet amazing I am so glad you are doing Patricia Wells b/c I have never heard of her and I should have so now it is time for me to read up ;)

  17. Look tasty, delicious and beauty dear Vall! gloria

  18. Wonderful read about Patricia Wells. I also know that she was born here in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

    She is living an enviable life in France which sharing wonderful recipes such as these. This looks like a delicious way to prepare cod!

  19. And guess what! I am going to Vaison-la-Romaine in September!!! I have never heard of this lady- she sounds just great! Thanks.

  20. Looks great - I got Wells' Latest cookbook (Salad as a meal) for my birthday and we've been enjoying some amazing salads ever since.

  21. Pancetta-wrapped anything is, by default, delicious! Definitely a great choice for Patricia wells this week!

  22. You certainly picked a wonderful recipe~ a meal I would serve for special company! Ms. Wells is a delightful person and so approachable.....she comes to the states often to do cooking demos and is still doing some classes in Paris.( They are a tad more attainable than the weekly classes in southern France.) Keep your eyes open for her whereabouts and you might be able to cook with her! Certainly worth it!The new Salad as a Meal is wonderful,check out my post on that book!


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