Salt cod: a traditional local Christmas dish with a Spanish twist

For some folks, it's a Christmas Eve tradition. Others prefer to have their "feed" of it Christmas morning. Fisheries Broadcast host Jamie Baker talked to St. John's chef Shaun Hussey for a way to spice up an old favourite.
Shaun Hussey uses Spanish flavours for his salt cod. (Chinched Bistro)

For some folks, it's a Christmas Eve tradition. Others prefer to have their "feed" of it Christmas morning. And others still are finding ways to serve it as party of their party grub.

However you like it, there's no doubt salt cod continues to be a savoured treat in many households in the province. But salt cod isn't just a traditional feast here. It's also a welcome part of the diet in many countries, including everywhere from Portugal to Brazil.

Chef Shaun Hussey, the owner of Chinched Bistro in downtown St. John's, likes to put a twist on how he serves salt cod.

He recently showed the Fisheries Broadcast how to put an international twist on a local favourite.

Here's the recipe!

Spanish Style Bacalao (Salt Cod)

Serves: 6-8

Ingredients

800 g (1.8 lb) dried and salted cod

75 ml (5 tablespoons) grapeseed oil (or cooking oil of choice)

13 medium garlic cloves, peeled

1 large onion (380 g), finely chopped

15 g parsley, finely chopped plus extra for serving

900 g (32 oz) tomato puree

400 g (14 oz) small potatoes, boiled

60 g (2 oz)_almonds, blanched

150 g (5.3 oz) manzanilla olives, pitted

120 g (4.2 oz) guindilla chile (chile largo) in vinegar, drained and whole

5-8 pimientos del piquillo (sweet red Spanish peppers) in salted water, sliced to serve (optional)

Instructions

The cod must be de-salted and rehydrated before cooking. To do so, place cod in a bowl and cover with water. Change water three times a day for three days.

Once rehydrated, the key to the success of this dish is to shred the cod as finely as possible (discarding the skin and bones). You want to end up cod "hairs" — extremely fine strands. 

To cook, heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the garlic cloves until golden in low heat. Once golden, squeeze the cloves with a wooden spoon, take out and discard. Add the onion into the garlic infused oil and sautee until golden brown, squeeze and drain the onion as you did with the cloves, remove from the pan and reserve. Add the parsley to the garlic and onion infused oil and simmer for a few minutes, drain as you did with the garlic and onion and reserve.

Pour the garlic, onion and parsley infused oil into a small bowl (you will be frying the flaked cod in five batches). Add ⅕ of the oil to the frying pan and ⅕ of the cod, fry (stirring constantly) until golden brown and slightly crispy. Repeat with the five batches.

Place the fried cod, reserved onions and parsley into the frying pan and begin to incorporate the tomato puree little by little. The bacalao should in no way be ‘soupy’ nor dry, so adjust the amount of the puree accordingly. Incorporate the potatoes (peeled or unpeeled), almonds, olives, and guindilla chiles. Season according to taste. Just before serving incorporate some roughly chopped parsley.

Bacalao is best prepared the day before (to accentuate the flavours), and can be served both warm and cold.

(And it is pretty incredible as a sandwich with this olive bread).

About the Author

Jamie Baker

Fisheries

Jamie Baker hosts The Broadcast each weekday on CBC Radio.