Friday, May 20, 2011
My Sizzling Baccala ~ Cod with Potatoes ~ Bakalar s krumpirom
Two things to remember about bakalar (Serbian)~ or baccala (Italian) is that your house will smell a little unpleasant and someone is sure to stop in that day to visit…. AND….. your pot will always boil over. It never fails for me. But it is so worth the trouble.
I first remember eating bakalar, salted codfish, as a child on St. Nickolas Day which occurs on the 19th of December during Advent. I didn’t love it….that would come later. This was my grandmother’s Patron Saint Day, so the house would be full of visitors. She served an array of lenten foods (posno) in keeping with the strict dietary rules of the Orthodox Church, of which bakalar was a staple. Roasted red peppers with garlic were always an accompaniment as well as kidney bean salad with onions.
My Mom’s and Baba’s recipe were a little different than mine below. They boiled the potatoes and codfish and finished it off in the oven with onions and garlic. It was quite good but the color of the fish would turn darker and the onions would carmelize and sweeten the dish. I now prefer my mother-in-law’s way of cooking it, which she learned from her mother-in-law. Seems Baba liked her fish, garlic and potatoes to stay white and pure. So look for the whitest fish at the market and start soaking 2 to 3 days before you serve it.
3 pounds dried codfish (boneless)
7 to 8 potatoes (about 2 pounds)
1 to 1 ½ cup oil heated in heavy duty skillet
8 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
Salt….wait to taste
Rinse, soak, repeat the fish for at least 2 days in a very large pot, rinsing several times a day. I leave mine on the counter so I remember to rinse. Use cold water. If it is too large, you can cut the fish in pieces.
Start to cook on low to bring water up to boil
Place the whole potatoes to cook. When they are almost done I bring the bakalar to a full boil as I peel and cut the potatoes in cubes. Mince the garlic fine as it will only cook once the hot oil hits it. Cook fish about 15 minutes…it will flake when done. Drain. Add fish & cubed potatoes in large sturdy bowl and mix. Lay finely minced garlic on top and leave it there…DO NOT MIX…cover and keep warm until oil is ready.
Heat oil until it starts to smell like hot oil…don’t walk away from the stove area. I use a cast iron skillet. Insert a toothpick or a potato skin to see if it sizzles. Carefully, with gloves, pour the oil over the garlic and watch it SIZZLE!!!!!! Serve immediately.
Prijatno! More info on baccala below
Baccalà— is Italian for salted codfish—comes mostly from the coast of Labrador and Newfoundland, where it’s fished, salted and exported all over the world. Here are some tips for how to choose and prepare your baccalà from a Delallo website that I copied
1. When you pick out a piece of baccalà remember that the color of the meat should be close to white and the skin light colored. If the meat color tends towards yellow, do not buy it.
2. If sold whole, try to buy a long, thick fish; if possible it should be a bit more than one-inch thick in the middle of the filet.
3. If it’s not already packed and wrapped in plastic, and you’re allowed to smell it, remember that its odor, even if a bit intense, must be of fish and nothing else (no chemical smells should be evident).
4. Prior to soaking, cut your baccala into large pieces. Cutting the fish before soaking helps speed up the re-hydration process.
5. At least two days prior to cooking (but we recommend 3 days if you have the time), you should begin soaking your salted baccalà in fresh water (at least 36-48 hours). First wash the pieces thoroughly, eliminating all the salt on the surface, and then completely submerge in any container that will hold a lot of water; change the water at least three times a day (every eight hours or even more frequently). While soaking, keep the baccala in a cool place. Refrigeration is not necessary.