Baccalà, or dried salt-cured cod fish, stewed in a light tomato sauce with potatoes and black olives, is traditionally prepared throughout the South of Italy as part of the Christmas Eve dinner, what is normally called in the U.S. Feast of the Seven Fishes.
Baccalà can be found in store pre-soaked and ready to be cooked with your favorite recipe. But when still dry, it should be soaked for at least 48 hours before cooking, changing the water often. I keep it in water for a couple of days in a large covered container in the refrigerator and change the water 4 times. Once softened, it will easy to remove the skin and any bones from the cod fish.
Light on the fat and very nutritious, this recipe can be also used any time of the year to prepare a great single dish. Dried oregano and oven roasted black olives add great flavor and aroma.
Ingredients and Instructions (serves 4):
- 1 3/4 pounds/800 grams of presoaked baccalà, skin and bones removed
- 1 pound/500 grams of potatoes
- 1 medium onion
- 1 small bunch of fresh parsley
- 1 pound/500 grams of peeled canned tomatoes
- Salt and pepper
- 1 cup of oven roasted black olives
- dried oregano
- 2 garlic cloves
- 6 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
1. Wash and skin the fish, remove any bones and cut into pieces.
2. Peel the potatoes, and cut them into thick slices. Slice the onion and coarsely chop the parsley.
3. Place the onion and the garlic cloves, cut in half, in a large heavy pan with the extra-virgin oil; sauté over medium heat for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly.
4. Crush the tomatoes with a fork then add to the pan with their juice; season with a small pinch of salt, pepper and oregano and when the liquid starts simmering lower the heat a cook for about 10 minutes.
5. Place the pieces of fish side by side in the tomato sauce, add the potatoes all around, the black olives and the chopped parsley and add enough water to submerge fish and potatoes almost completely; cover and simmer gently for about 45 minutes, uncovering for the last 5 to reduce the sauce. In the end, potatoes and fish should be very tender, and the liquid of the sauce reduced by more than half. Serve warm.
Cooking tip: when the fish starts becoming tender, the pieces can easily break up and fall apart. Shake the pan once in a while instead of stirring the fish while cooking.
Note: This is a recipe that can be prepared a day in advance, like in the case of a large dinner. Just warm up on the stove top a few minutes prior to serving.
Wine suggestion: where available, I suggest pairing this dish with a soft white Vermentino di Sardegna (Sardinia). A dry white wine would also be a good choice.
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