. . . SPANISH SALTED COD
& COOKING ARTICLE
salt cod or Bacalao as it is known in Spain is still
eaten extensively in many European Mediterranean countries,
including Spain. The cod, usually from Iceland or Norway
is brought to northern Spanish shores where it is salted
and cured. In the past, the fish used to be air cured
hanging on wooden frames called fish flakes near the
sea but in modern times different methods are used.
ago when there was no electricity to power fridges or
freezers, salt curing was the only way to preserve fish
and even until recently this was still a necessity for
many small poor Spanish pueblos. The Bacalao which resembled
flat grey bats could be found hanging on lines in small
village shops which were often just the front room of
someone's house. Even today Bacalao is still sold this
way although it is also available in various other forms
such as wrapped in plastic or vacuum packed. You can
also buy as well as the whole fish, pieces of the whole
fish and the 'lomo' which is the tender fleshy fillets.
Village women did and still do buy Bacalao in abundance
and they always buy the whole fish or portions of it
which sometimes appears from underneath the counter
to be cut up as requested. Elderly Spanish women know
what they want and this is Bacalao at its best.
today, when fresh fish is plentiful Bacalao is still
as popular as it was generations ago whether in small
Spanish pueblos or fine modern restaurants. Perhaps
the popularity of Bacalao has remained because of its
unique uncompromising flavour or maybe because of the
vast array of exciting dishes which can be prepared
using it, all of them delicious.
trick when choosing a quality piece of Bacalao is to
go for the whole pice which has the skin and bones or
get a cut from the whole fish as it has the most intense
flavour and best texture. A good piece of Bacalao will
be slightly grey white in colour, never yellow and although
it is dried it should not be stiff but slightly pliable.
order to get the best out of salt cod it must be prepared
properly and that means first cleaning it in running
water and then placing it into a dish and covering it
with water. The Bacalao must be kept covered and left
in a cold place to soak for between 24 and 48 hours
with water changes at least three times a day. To test
the degree of saltiness, taste a little piece after
about 24 hours and leave to soak a little longer if
necessary. Remember though never salt any dish made
with Bacalao until you taste it at the end of cooking.
goes exceptionally well with a variety of ingredients
but especially tomatoes and dried red peppers. It is
extremely versatile and can be used to make many different
tapas dishes as well as main meals and soups and stews.
Below are some of our favourite Bacalao dishes.
al ajo arriero - A recipe which remains unchanged
from times when mules were used in Spain to carry
seafood from the coasts. Prepared with lots of garlic
and tomatoes, this dish was served up in the ancient
equivalent of truck stops.
style Bacalao - A lovely filling spicy dish with
a beautiful deep red sauce of dried peppers traditionally
cooked in large earthenware dishes over open fires.
al pil-pil - Similar to the tapas bar favourite
gambas al pil-pil. This chilli garlic cod dish is
served still sizzling in the cazuela with lots of
cod fritters - A truly delightful dish reminiscent
of days gone by but extremely popular as a modern
day tapas dish.
Copyright 2008 Orce Serrano Hams - www.orceserranohams.com
29 February 2008
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