Whipped salt cod on crispy polenta
Salt cod is a staple ingredient in cuisines around the globe, including Latin American, Italian, and Spanish cuisine. Some of the most beautiful stalls in La Boqueria, Barcelona’s bustling central market, are devoted to salt cod. You might think of salt cod as a dry, salty preserved fish product that comes in wooden boxes, or…

CIA FOODIES


Using Salt Cod

Salt cod is a staple ingredient in cuisines around the globe, including Latin American, Italian, and Spanish cuisine. Some of the most beautiful stalls in La Boqueria, Barcelona’s bustling central market, are devoted to salt cod. You might think of salt cod as a dry, salty preserved fish product that comes in wooden boxes, or you may have seen leathery sheets of it in Italian markets in the United States. But the best salt cod is fleshy and supple, moist and white, and almost satiny in texture. In some cases it can cost more than fresh fish.

Desalting Salt Cod

Well-prepared salt cod should not taste salty; it should taste cured, like good ham. Its texture should be satiny and moist. If it is dry and cottony, it’s been overcooked. The first step in any salt cod recipe is properly desalting the fish. To desalt, place the cod in a large bowl and cover it by a couple of inches (about 5 cm) with cold water. Refrigerate for 24 hours, changing the water at least five times during this period. Taste a bit of the fish. If it still tastes salty, soak it for another 24 hours, changing the water five times.

Cooking Salt Cod

When salt cod is properly cooked, it breaks up into large, slippery, silky flakes with the touch of a fork. To cook salt cod, drain the soaked cod and place it in a wide saucepan. Add water to cover the salt cod by 1 inch. Over medium-low heat, bring the water to a simmer. It should never boil, or your salt cod will dry out. Once you see bubbles rising from the bottom of the pan and breaking on the surface, cover tightly, turn off the heat, and allow it to sit for 20 minutes. Drain. The cod should flake apart easily.

Making Your Own

Here in the United States it may not be easy to obtain the high-quality thick, moist salt cod loins you find in Spain. You can, however, obtain good bacalao from LaTienda.com or other online shops. And, of course, you can cure fresh cod yourself:
  • Use 1/2 cup of coarse sea salt for every pound of fresh cod fillets.
  • Remove the pinbones from the fillets using tweezers.
  • Sprinkle some of the salt over the bottom of a baking dish that is large enough to hold all of the fillets in a single layer. Lay the fillets on top and cover with the remaining salt. Cover and refrigerate for 12 hours.
  • Pour off the water that has accumulated in the baking dish, and if the salt has dissolved, sprinkle on more. Cover and refrigerate for another 12 hours.
  • To cook with it, desalt it as directed above. It will probably only take 12 hours. Use as directed in salt cod recipes.

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