Tag Archives: baccala

Anna’s baccala & potatoes

22 Feb

Rarely are there surprises when I sit down to a meal with my family. Not when it comes to the food that’s served. I live several hours away from them, you see, and so when I visit their inclination is to prepare my favorite foods, not experiment with new ones. (For the record, I am totally down with this strategy. It is exactly how I want it to be.)

Every once in a while, though, Aunt Anna likes to throw a curve. Take this salt cod dish. Baccala is a staple in our family. On Christmas Eve Anna always prepares it two different ways: one baked with cherry peppers, another shredded and tossed with garlic and olive oil and herbs and served as a cold salad. It has been this way for decades now. And so when a new version with tomatoes and potatoes turned up a couple Christmas Eves back I wasn’t the only person at the table to take notice.

“What’s this?” asked cousin Josephine as the serving bowl touched the bright red holiday table, positioned amidst the many traditional seafood dishes we all expect to be present.

Jo, I should mention, is Anna’s daughter. Christmas Eve is her birthday. She and I often sit next to each other at this holiday’s dinner table. Jo and Anna, who lost her husband at a very young age, lived in the apartment above mine when we were growing up and so Jo has always been more of a sister to me than a cousin. This is probably more information than you need or care about, I’ll admit. But my point is this: If Josephine wasn’t expecting this new baccala dish on our traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes menu then that was really saying something. After all, she and her mother have cooked and baked and eaten together for a lot of years. How could such a thing happen?

Long story short, and as often is the case with my dearest aunt, the answer remains a mystery.

“Do me a favor,” Anna said after I and several others echoed cousin Jo’s query about the new dish. “Just shut up and eat before it gets cold.”

Saute an onion, a couple garlic cloves and around a quarter pound of pancetta in olive oil until the onions have softened.

Add a large potato that’s been sliced like so …

… some salt cod that’s been properly soaked to reduce its salt content …

… and a can of tomatoes. Then simmer at medium heat for around an hour or so, longer if you wish.

Don’t thank me, thank my aunt.

Just don’t ask too many questions.

Toni’s baccala

10 Feb

I’m in love with a woman who is not my wife. We met at a friend’s beach house in Rhode Island last summer, and within minutes I knew that I was hooked. We cooked and ate good food together, sat by the sea and watched fishing boats go by, sipped wine outside in the evening near the roaring fire pit and talked easily and without pretense.
My wife knows about all of this. Says she can understand how a man like me could fall so hard and so deeply for a woman like Toni. I married well. If the tables were turned I’m not so certain I could be so understanding.
I received a letter from Toni recently. She told me that she missed seeing me on my last trip down to New Bedford and that she looked forward to the next time we might meet again, perhaps this summer at the shore. In the letter was a recipe that she thought I might like to try preparing, a Portuguese baccala (salt cod) dish that Toni said was among her favorites. It’s made with cauliflower and potatoes and onions, not a way that I have ever had salt cod before. “Let me know if you like it,” she wrote.

I didn’t like it Toni, I loved it.

You too.
See you when the snow melts. I hope.
Toni’s Baccala
Salt Cod with Cauliflower & Potatoes
1 head cauliflower
1 1/2 pounds salt cod (soaked and ready to cook)
1 large onion
2 large potatoes
1-2 quarts chicken stock, as needed

Cut the potatoes into large cubes, partly boil then set aside.
Cut the codfish into cubes around an inch thick.
Break apart the cauliflower head and slice the onion, then saute in olive oil in a large pot for around 10 minutes.
Add 1 quart of stock, the potatoes and the cod. Add more stock as needed.
Simmer for around 30 minutes and serve.