Learn the tantalising Puerto Rican bacalao recipe

The Puerto Rican bacalao recipe is a true emblem of Puerto Rican culture, but it is also one of the most popular dishes in other Latin American countries during the winter holidays. Bacalao in this style is popular among Mexicans at Christmas, and is also a firm favourite of Guatemalans and Argentinians.

What is Puerto Rican bacalao?

Also known as bacalao boricua, this not only serves as a main meal but also as an accompaniment to other recipes. It is a very popular dish on the island and will delight diners with its exquisite flavour. The best part? The Puerto Rican bacalao recipe is very easy to make, and in just a matter of minutes you'll have a delicious dish ready for the table!

Take note, because the true way to prepare this dish is by stewing the fish.

Puerto Rican bacalao recipe

Ingredients

  • Half a kilo of bacalao.
  • Half a chopped onion.
  • Half a green pepper.
  • Half a red pepper.
  • A spoonful of sofrito criollo (it has its own ingredients and preparation time).
  • Two olives.
  • Two bay leaves.
  • Half a cup of tomato sauce.
  • Cilantro.

Preparation

  • The first thing to do is to make the sofrito. Sofrito criollo is very popular in Puerto Rico and is used for almost everything, so you can reserve it and add it to other recipes.
  • For the sofrito you will need an onion, green and red peppers, tomato, aji dulce (optional, but recommended); garlic, coriander, ground cumin, extra virgin olive oil, red achiote, water and salt.
  • In a saucepan with plenty of water, cook the bacalao. It is best to cut it into slices, so that the cooking time is quicker.
  • You do not need to add anything other than water. 
  • The fish should be ready in around 10 minutes. The time all depends on the size of the fish, but you can tell it is ready when it starts to boil and the bacalao is soft and starts to flake on its own. 
  • Remove from the heat and the pan.
  • Set aside on a plate to allow it to come to room temperature.
  • Wash and cut the vegetables into small pieces. They do not have to be regular.
  • Place the vegetables in a food processor, such as a blender or mixer. 
  • Add a splash of water to give the mixture consistency. 
  • Add a pinch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil and the sofrito is ready! All you have to do is set it aside and store it in the fridge. 
  • Wash the bacalao very carefully before using it. Remove excess water with absorbent kitchen paper.
  • Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat.
  • Cut the peppers and the onion (peeled) into julienne strips.
  • Add a spoonful of sofrito, as well as the pitted and chopped olives.
  • Stir vigorously.
  • After a few minutes, add the two bay leaves and half a cup of tomato. 
  • At this point, the bacalao should be warm, so use your hands to flake and add the fish to the pan with the vegetables.
  • It is important that you put it on the heat within seconds of adding the tomato sauce, so time it carefully. 
  • Some people throw the whole bacalao into the mixture and let it flake on its own when stirring. This all depends on how soft the fish is.
  • After two minutes, stirring continuously, the Puerto Rican bacalao recipe is now ready.

What is bacalao serenata?

Another popular way to eat bacalao in Puerto Rico is with the so-called serenata de bacalao. This is a very fresh and popular salad during the summer. It is very quick to make, but keep in mind that you need to take time to desalinate the bacalao.

Ingredients

  • 450 grams of salted bacalao.
  • Half a red onion.
  • One tomato.
  • A quarter of a green pepper.
  • A quarter of a red pepper.
  • Iceberg lettuce or cabbage.
  • Extra virgin olive oil.
  • White wine vinegar.
  • One clove of garlic.
  • Freshly ground black pepper.
  • chopped parsley
  • Three boiled eggs.
  • One avocado.

Preparation

  • The first thing to do is to desalinate the bacalao. This process can take up to 48 hours, but you can speed things up by soaking the bacalao in milk for at least two hours. If you decide to desalinate for 24 or 48 hours, you should change the water every eight hours. 
  • Once the fish is desalted, pour a splash of cold water over it to remove any remaining salt.
  • Clean and dry with absorbent kitchen paper.
  • Place in a pan with plenty of water and bring the bacalao to the boil for 15 minutes. It should come to the boil so that you can check if it is ready.
  • Remove from the heat and set aside in a separate dish, so that it reaches room temperature and you can flake it. Remove the bones during this process.
  • Peel the onion and cut it and the peppers into julienne strips.
  • Dice the tomato.
  • Grate or chop the cabbage or lettuce. If you use cabbage, you should soak it in hot water to soften it.
  • In a large bowl, mix the olive oil, vinegar, pepper and garlic clove. The clove should be peeled and crushed. 
  • Stir with a whisk or fork to emulsify the mixture.
  • Crumble the bacalao with your hands.
  • In a glass bowl, place the crumbled bacalao and the vegetables and pour the vinaigrette and chopped parsley on top. 
  • Stir with your hands so that it integrates.
  • Cover with clingfilm and set aside in the fridge. It should rest for at least one hour. 
  • Boil the eggs and cut the avocado into wedges. 
  • Serve the bacalao serenade with the eggs and avocado. Dress with olive oil and a little dried or fresh parsley. 

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