Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Father's Day Foodie Post: Baccala Recipe in Honor of my Grandfather

Growing up in a large Italian family, every holiday, no matter how large or small, was celebrated with food. Despite my avid interest in and constant vigilance to feeding myself and my family a healthy diet, I still have to make the old family 'comfort food' recipes on occasion.

Baccala is today's dish. Yesterday I picked up some salt cod, and soaked it overnight, changing the water a couple times before I went to bed. Salt cod is cod fish filets preserved with salt. It harkens back to the days when salting was a common method of preservation, before the advent of refrigeration. Cod is still sold this way, probably because so many cultures still use it in their cooking. I buy it at my local grocery or the local Italian market. Salt cod freezes well also. It needs to be soaked and rinsed a few times to get the excess salt out.

This is a traditional Christmas Eve dish for my family, but I like to make it once in a while.

This morning I was excited to make Baccala, which is simply a fried cod fritter. Four ingredients: flour, water, cod, and salt to taste. After getting the java going, this is what I saw in my pantry:

Yep, I was out of white flour. 

Truth be told, I've been trying to cut back on the white stuff, so I haven't been buying it. But, I did have a bag of King Arthur 'white whole wheat' flour. So that is what I used.
Here is how my grandfather taught me to make the Baccala. You start with some flour sifted in a mixing bowl. A couple cups for about a pound of fish. Use more if you need o stretch the cod a little farther. Add water and mix with electric mixer to consistency of a batter, slightly thinner than pancake batter. Add salt to taste. I can't tell you how much, just taste your batter.

I like to simmer the cod a little while, but this is not necessary - my Mom never did. Drain the cod and flake it to make smaller pieces, but don't shred.

Put a fry pan on the stove - cast iron works great, but I just used my stainless. Fill ~ 1/3 of the way with oil. I like safflower oil because it is a healthier high temp oil. I'm pretty sure Gramp used corn oil. Heat up the oil.

Here is the setup:
Using a tablespoon, scoop a little cod, then scoop some batter on the same spoon, and drop gently into the hot oil. The oil has got to be hot. You should see the oil bubble around the fritter when it goes into the oil. It is important to not crowd the pan. When the edges are looking golden, flip the fritter with a fork and let the other side cook. When done - nice and golden - remove with slotted spoon to a paper towel lined dish.

Today's 'healthier whole wheat' version verdict: not bad, but we all prefer the white flour version. If you make this, I definitely recommend using white all-purpose flour. It's a treat, might as well enjoy it.  Even though it is not exactly the same with the WW flour, we had no problem devouring these for breakfast.
They can be salted if preferred. Let cool a bit, then enjoy. These are good the next day, too, if they last.

I have fond memories of learning to make Baccala with 'Gramp', my grandfather. Gramp was a kind and gentle man with the patience of Job, and the best laugh ever. He was a very smart man who could fix or build anything, despite having only a sixth grade education. Gramp was a dye sinker by trade, and was also a musician. He played the tenor sax and guitar, and he and his fellow band members made an album in the early 70's. Gramp also had the greenest thumb, and made a beautiful garden every year. He chopped wood all summer to stock up for winter, because Gram and Gramp built a fire in the wood burning stove in the sunroom every cold day. I could go on all day about all of the great memories I have of Gramp. He was so special, and is always missed.

Happy Father's Day to the special dads and granddads in your lives.

1 comment:

  1. I make a similar one called bolinhos bacalau.......that is my inlaws recipe. Thanks for visiting my blog!


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