Editor’s note: The theme of Gohan Lab is to help people make simple, tasty “gohan” (meals).

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To cap the series on “fall and winter fish,” we'll show you how to simmer cod, a popular ingredient of hot pots, with potatoes in a frying pan.

Simmering food in milk is a classic recipe in Europe. Since cod has a light flavor, it goes well with ingredients that contain fat. Milk also adsorbs the fishy odor.

By simmering over low heat, savory “umami” of the cod dissolves into the milk and is transferred to the vegetables. While this week’s recipe features turnip that is easy to cook and tastes sweet, Chinese cabbage or green bok choy (“chingensai”) may also be used. Parboiling the fish and removing the bones make it easy for children and the elderly to eat.

Another item made with cod and potato is a potato salad-style dish called “baccala mantecato” in Italy. Baccala is dried and salted cod. Mantecato means “whisked or creamed.” When served with a thinly sliced baguette, it will make a stylish accompaniment to wine.

Some people may have an aversion to cod since it spoils quickly and tends to give off an odor. For those of you in that boat, these two dishes are perfect for giving cod a try.

Fall and winter bounty

In addition to Japanese amberjack, mackerel and cod, which we've introduced in the fall and winter fish series, other tasty morsels of the sea abound this season.

According to the Japan Fisheries Information Service Center, which provides information on fishing areas and market trends, fish coming into season include olive flounder (“hirame”), righteye flounder (“karei”), Kichiji rockfish (“kinki”), dark sleeper (“donko”), splendid alfonsino (“kinmedai”) and marbled rockfish (“kasago”).

Japanese Spanish mackerel, or “sawara,” the kanji character for which contains the words “fish” on its left and “spring” on the right, is in season in the Kanto region from now until early January.

Fall salmon, however, is suffering from a poor catch. Catches in the Sanriku region have reportedly dropped 80 percent from last year.

As for crabs, a female snow crab (“zuwai-gani” or “seko-gani”) is moderately priced at around 1,000 yen ($9.20). The meat can be raveled and cooked with seasoned rice. Dried laver seaweed known as nori has its best harvest in December.

In addition to its use in sushi rolls, nori is a great ingredient for tempura. The fishing season of the Pacific oyster (“magaki”) lasts until March. Now is also the right season to enjoy the Sakhalin surf clam (“hokki-gai”).

BASIC COOKING METHOD

(Supervised by Kuniaki Arima in the cooking aspect and Midori Kasai in the cookery science aspect)

* Ingredients and cooking utensils (Serves two)

Fillet (150 grams) of cod, 1 potato (danshaku variety), 1 turnip, 1/2 onion, 1 clove garlic, 200 ml milk, 2 Tbsp sake, olive oil, 10 grams butter, bit of salt

1. Boil potato until tender, peel and quarter. Add sake to water used to boil potato and bring to a boil again. Add cod, count 10 seconds and lift with meshed skimmer and immerse in cold water (PHOTO A).

Cut onion into 1 cm-wide wedges. Cut garlic into thick slices. Cut unpeeled turnip into six equal parts.

2. Add 1/2 tsp olive oil and garlic in frying pan and place over low heat. When surface colors, turn sides. Add onion and turnip and mix with spatula and wait for about a minute (PHOTO B).

Mix lightly, add potato and 100 ml milk and turn up heat a little.

3. When contents come to a boil, lower heat and place cod in center of pan. Simmer while turning potato and turnip. When soup is reduced, add remaining milk (PHOTO C).

Turn cod and cook for 4 to 5 minutes occasionally pouring the simmering sauce on top. Add butter and season with salt. Pour 1/2 tsp olive oil on top.

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Kuniaki Arima is the owner-chef of Passo a Passo, an Italian restaurant in Tokyo’s Fukagawa district.

Midori Kasai is a professor at Ochanomizu University and chairwoman of the Japan Society of Cookery Science.

ARRANGED VERSION

<Potato salad with cod>

Boil a potato (danshaku variety) until tender and peel. Parboil 150 grams cod, remove skin and bones and cut into small pieces.

Add 150 ml milk, cod and potato in a small pot and cook. When liquid is gone, crush ingredients. Add 2 pinches salt, 1/4 tsp grated garlic, some chopped Italian parsley (or plain parsley), 1/2 tsp olive oil and mix. Make a dent in the mixture, pour a bit of olive oil in it and serve.

COOKERY SCIENCE

The particles of the fat and protein in the milk are too small to be seen. They have an adsorption effect similar to miso.

You can tone down the fish's odor by immersing it in milk before grilling or simmering it with miso. The components that make up its smell stick to the milk particles or miso.

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From The Asahi Shimbun’s Gohan Lab column