The Feast of the Seven FIshes, Baccala Gratinata

The Feast of the Seven Fishes

Baccala Gratinata

Serves 4 or more

Bacala or Salt Cod has been a staple protein for so many of Mediterranean, West Indies, Caribbean and Central and South American for centuries. Salt cod and slat pork sustained many cultures through hard times. And hard times were often. A few sides of salt cod in the basement often meant the family starvation.

In modern times, though it is still popular, it is quickly becoming a special occasion food.  With virtually all of the western world now connected to an electric grid, refrigerators are the norm and preserving fish is not necessary for survival anymore.


The Old School Baccala Box was used for my crayons when I was a kid in New Haven

Baccala before soaking and rinsing


Plan ahead. It takes a good three days to get a proper soaking on the fish to remove the majority of the salt.

 

Serves 2 as a meal or 4 as a light co

12-16 oz Salt Cod, aka Bacala or Bacalao cut tinto 3 oz pieces

flour for dusting (gf is ok)

olive oil as needed

1 small onion, sliced

1 clove garlic, smashed

1 red pepper, roasted and peeled

2 tbls tomato paste

1 cup white wine 

1 cup water

2 tbls chopped parsley

Water

1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs (Gf are ok)

pinch of crushed pepper

grated Asiago or Parmigiana cheese

Soak the cod in cold water for at least two days, (but three is better), changing the water three times a day. Keep it in the refrigerator or in a cooler, adding ice to the water to keep it cold.

You can pinch a little bit and taste it raw to see if the salt is almost gone. (Spit it out if you are squeamish). It should have a hint of salinity. Thicker pieces will take longer to soak.

A friend from England told me his mother would put the fish in the tank in back of the toilet (yes, that is where the CLEAN water that refills the bowl comes from) so that every time someone flushed, the water was refreshed.  He has 5 siblings, so that made quick work of it.  File this under try at your own risk category.

 

After 3 days of soaking, it's firm but flexible and slightly golden

Preheat oven to 325.

Once it is throughly soaked, cut into portions and dust with flour.

In a heavy skillet heat some olive oil.

Brown the portions of baccala in the hot oil until golden and arrange the pieces in a casserole pan into which you have poured a little olive oil to coat the bottom of. .

In the same pan, add a little more oil and and add the onion.

Add a pinch of salt and saute until the onion is soft.

Now add the garlic and cook until just golden around the edges.

Whisk in the tomato paste and fry it in for a minute. Now add the white wine and whisk into the tomato paste.

Bring to a boil, then add the water and whisk again, making a smooth sauce.

Add the roasted peppers and parsley, cook for a minute then spoon over the fish pieces evenly.

Now, in a small bowl add the breadcrumbs and crushed pepper.

Mix well and moisten with a tablespoon of olive oil.

Spoon evenly over each piece of fish.

Sprinkle lightly with the cheese and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until nicely browned and the sauce is bubbling.

So GOOOOOD!

Baked, tangy, meaty, briny--just like me after work!



Serve with a little sauce form the casserole as a tasting course. For an entree, serve with crusty bread, a hearty salad ( I like chicory and endive) and Olive Oil mashed potatoes

See recipe below


Olive Oil Smashed Potatoes

Many years ago I designed these for my son who has a dairy allergy and they have since become a family and restaurant fave, especially with hearty fish!

Serves 4

I pound or more thin skinned potatoes like reds or butterballs, unpeeled

1 cup parsley, roughly chopped

salt to taste

generous amount of freshly ground black pepper

Boil the potatoes in plenty of salted water.

When they are soft, drain well, and leave the potatoes in the warm pot.

Add the parsley, plenty of black pepper and a pinch of salt.

Now using a hand masher , mash the potatoes adding the olive oil a little at at time to work it in.

They should look plenty rustic.

Adjust salt to taste.


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