bacalao (salted cod). Bacalao (salted cod), is a dish traditionally consumed in Mexico (and Spain) during the Christmas to New Year period and one of my all-time-favourite dishes without a doubt. I remember Christmas after Christmas as a kid sitting with my mother (and company) to shred the cod. Eagerly anticipating it (even more so than the turkey).
It is time consuming yes, but worth every bit of the work. This is my grandmother’s recipe, a take on the Spanish bacalao a la vizcaína. Her ‘secret’ was to shred the cod as thinly as possible (instead of leaving it in chunks), and to subsequently fry it in small batches. Hers was also dry, rather than ‘soupy’- so it makes for killer leftover sandwiches (ideally with this olive bread).
And let me tell you that (without bias) it really does result in the best bacalao I (and everyone who tries it) has had. Seriously.
click through for recipe
800 g (1.8 lb) dried and salted Norwegian cod
75 mL (5 TBS) grapeseed oil (or cooking oil of choice)
13 medium garlic cloves, peeled
1 large onion (380 g), finely chopped
15 g parsley, finely chopped plus extra for serving
900 g (32 oz) tomato puree
400 g (14 oz) small potatoes, boiled
60 g (2 oz)_almonds, blanched
150 g (5.3 oz) manzanilla olives, pited
120 g (4.2 oz) guindilla chile (chile largo) in vinegar, drained and whole
5-8 pimientos del piquillo (sweet red Spanish peppers) in salted water, sliced to serve (optional)
The cod must be de-salted and rehydrated before cooking. To do so, place cod in a bowl and cover with water. Change water 3 times a day for 3 days.
Once rehydrated, the key to the success of this dish is to shred (dezmenuzar) the cod as finely as possible (discarding the skin and bones). You want to end up cod ‘hairs’- aka extremely fine strands. A well-worth pain.
To cook, heat the oil in a good frying pan and fry the garlic cloves until golden in low heat. Once golden, squeeze the cloves with a wooden spoon, take out and discard. Add the onion into the garlic infused oil and sautee until golden brown, squeeze and drain the onion as you did with the cloves, remove from the pan and reserve. Add the parsley to the garlic and onion infused oil and simmer for a few minutes, drain as you did with the garlic and onion and reserve.
Pour the garlic, onion and parsley infused oil into a small bowl (you will be frying the flaked cod in five batches). Add 1/5 of the oil to the frying pan and 1/5 of the cod, fry (stirring constantly) until golden brown and slightly crispy. Repeat with the five batches.
Place the fried cod, reserved onions and parsley into the frying pan and begin to incorporate the tomato puree little by little. The bacalao should in no way be ‘soupy’ nor dry, so adjust the amount of the puree accordingly. Incorporate the potatoes (peeled or unpeeled), almonds, olives, and guindilla chiles. Season according to taste. Just before serving incorporate some roughly chopped parsley.
Bacalao is best prepared the day before (to accentuate the flavours), and can be served both warm and cold.
(And it is pretty incredible as a sandwich with this olive bread).
IMPORTANT NOTE: while I provide measurements in both grams and cups throughout my recipes, I tend to favour weighing the ingredients for greater precision. Measuring by cups depends on too many variables (starting with how you pour the flour) and can be imprecise. I therefore highly suggest following the metric measurements for best results.