Pan-roasted pollock with lettuce, bacon + clams

Pan-roasted pollock with lettuce, bacon + clams

A Lot on Her Plate
Helen Cathcart

This is my version of a restaurant dish I’ve had in various guises, and would always order if it was on the menu. I love the combination of meaty, flaky white fish with a slightly golden crust, cooked with delicate sweet clams and wilted, but still-crunchy lettuce. I’ve used pollock because it’s cheaper and more plentiful than cod, and, in my opinion, just as tasty, but you could use cod, coley, hake or haddock. Cooked lettuce is a favourite of mine – I love what applying heat does to its texture, making it silky while retaining a subtle fresh flavour and satisfying bite. I’ve used home-made fish stock to give the sauce depth and refinement – it’s well worth making if you have time. All the work here is in what chefs call the ‘mise en place’ – the preparation – and is ideal for a romantic evening in or dinner party, as, once you’ve done the prep, it all comes together quickly, leaving you time to have your fun.


Quantity Ingredient
2 thick pollock or hake fillets or other white fish
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
large handful clams or cockles, in their shells, cleaned
light olive oil
unsalted butter
2 shallots, finely sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 bay leaf
2 rashers smoked back bacon, cut into lardons
or 50g good-quality lardons
100ml white wine
300ml Fish stock, (preferably homemade)
2 tablespoons double cream
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 sprig thyme, leaves picked
8 leaves baby gem or romaine lettuce, washed and sliced
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves


  1. Season the fish fillets with a little sea salt 2 hours before cooking – this will help to draw out excess water. Keep the clams or cockles in a bowl in the fridge with a damp tea towel over them. Before cooking, place the clams or cockles in a bowl of water under a gently running cold tap for about 10 minutes – this will encourage them to give up their grit.
  2. Heat a dessertspoonful of olive oil and a knob of butter in a pan. Add the shallots, garlic and bay leaf, and cook for 2 minutes over a medium heat, until they’re starting to soften. Add the lardons and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring to coat the shallots in the bacon fat. Add the white wine and reduce until it’s mostly evaporated, then add the fish stock and reduce again by almost half (another 8–10 minutes). Add the cream, bring back to the boil and simmer for 2 more minutes. Take off the heat, remove the bay and season with lemon juice. Taste the sauce to make sure it’s to your liking, and add more salt, lemon or cream to your taste.
  3. Heat a little bit of oil in a heavy-based frying pan until stinking hot, and add the seasoned pollock fillets. Cook for about 4 minutes, until they’ve formed a nice golden brown crust and come away from the pan easily, then flip them over. Add a knob of butter and some thyme leaves, and cook for another 3–4 minutes. When they’re cooked all the way through, and firm to the touch, transfer to a warm plate and leave to rest under some foil while you cook the clams or cockles.
  4. Heat a little bit more oil in the fish pan and add the drained clams or cockles and the lettuce. Put a clear lid over the pan and shake it around a bit, until the clams start to open (about 3 minutes). Transfer the contents of the pan to the shallots, bacon and stock and heat the whole thing up until it’s just boiling, simmering for 1 minute, then stir in the parsley and taste for seasoning. Discard any clams that are still closed.
  5. Plate-up the pollock fillets then divide the clam and lettuce sauce between the two plates or bowls. I find it pays to set the table with a spoon when you make this dish, because the sauce is so delicious, you’ll want to eat every last drop. It’s nice served with some buttery potato purée or better still, chips!
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