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BACALAO VIZCAYA (Vizcaina)

3.5 hours
Prep: 2 hours, but who's watching the clock? | Cook: 1.5 hours | Servings: About 12

Ingredients

  • 1 kilo bacalao (legitimate Norwegian salt cod, without bones). Don’t buy the flat board-like sheets or those which look like half a flattened fish and stink. Use the thicker more expensive filet, which is cheaper in the long run, easier, and tastes much better.
  • 1 kilo tomato. Preferably Roma, although any kind of red tomato will work.
  • 1 head of garlic, peeled (or at least 4-5 cloves)
  • 2 medium or 1 large white or yellow onion. Even red onions are fine.
  • Raisins to taste, like a small handful. Entirely optional.
  • 200 grams almonds (or more), slivered. Or peeled and left whole.
  • Capers (optional)
  • 200 grams green olives. I prefer the olives which still have the seeds, because it takes people longer to eat. If using seeded olives, use less.
  • Italian parsley to taste
  • Pimento (canned is OK) or a Hungarian yellow pepper (chile güero), cut into strips. If using fresh, then cook it with the sofrito.
  • Rosemary, bay leaf, oregano
  • 1 glass of brandy
  • Olive oil
  • .75 kilo new potatoes (optional)

Instructions

  1. Starting 2 days, maybe 3, before cooking, soak the bacalao in water in an enamel, glass or non-reactive vessel. Drain and change the water every 8 hours or whenever you think about it. The longer you soak it, the more salt you’re going to remove.
  2. After the final bath, drain the water again.
  3. Add fish to boiling water, and cook for about 20 min. Drain and discard all of the water except for 1 cup.
  4. Flake the fish. Get rid of any bones and weird matter.
  5. Cook the almonds lightly in a small amount butter, and then slightly toast them.
  6. Zap the garlic, tomato and onion in the blender until finely pureed. Using a small amount of olive oil, make a sofrito in a large frying pan, Dutch oven, or something big enough to accommodate all of the ingredients. Cook the sofrito until about 75% of the liquid is gone. This will take at least an hour. Add some rosemary, bay leaf and oregano.
  7. Add the fish to the sofrito, along with the almonds, chopped parsley, raisins, olives, capers, and a glass of brandy. Add the reserved water that the fish cooked in, if you remembered to set it aside. Stir it around, and cook covered just a few minutes, maybe ten or fifteen, for everything to heat up and the flavors to mix.
  8. Optional step. Boil and peel new potatoes, and add them to the mix.

Comments

Do not add any salt, because there’s still some residual salt in the fish. If your brother-in-law tastes this and says it needs salt, ignore him. Better yet, tell him to leave the kitchen.

You can serve the bacalao the same day, warmed or at room temperature. Or refrigerate for a day or so for the flavors to meld. If it seems a little dry, make some more sofrito and add it to the mixture. Or add another glass of brandy and some olive oil.

Refrigerated, the dish should be good for about a week. It also freezes fine if the potatoes are left out. This recipe makes a huge quantity!

This is a typical Mexico City New Year’s dish, mostly among the upper class. A little goes a long way, and you may not want to spring this (or waste the effort) on people who don’t like the idea of salted cod. It’s actually much easier to prepare than it sounds.

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