Bacalao with Pil Pil Sauce

Simplicity at its best. This traditional dish from the Basque Country (El País Vasco), a region of northern Spain, is only made with a few ingredients: cod, guindilla (chili pepper), and olive oil. The trick lies in the constant motion of the pan, which allows the olive oil and the gelatin released from the cod to emulsify into a beautiful pil-pil sauce.

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1 oz Italian (flat-leaf) parsley for garnish
  • 2 fresh guindilla peppers (chili peppers)
  • 2 Campo Grande wild cod filets
  • 4 sliced garlic cloves for garnish
  • 12 oz of olive oil
  • Salt to taste

Instructions 

  1. To prepare the cod and sauce, begin by heating 7 oz of olive oil to 80 C (176 F). Once the pan reaches the temperature, place the cod filets with skin side down and fresh guindilla peppers on the side.
  2. Place a separate pot in medium heat with the remaining olive oil. Once oil begins to bubble, add thinly sliced garlic and remove once it begins to brown.  
  3. The cod will begin to release gelatin, and small white dots will start to appear. Make sure to begin making circular motions with the pan, in order to keep releasing gelatin.
  4. After 3-5 minutes or once it has fully cooked on the skin side, flip the cod.
  5. Once it is fully cooked, remove cod, place into a dish and stir the pan with a mesh stainless steel strainer. It is important to keep the temperature at 80 C (176 F) in order for the sauce to emulsify properly.
  6. Keep stirring with a strainer for a few minutes. Add a few pieces of shaved ice if the temperature is too high or if it hasn’t fully emulsified.
  7. Strain the sauce in order to have a velvety, smooth and creamy sauce.

Plating

  1. Pat the cod dry with a paper towel on the skin side, in order for the pil-pil sauce to adhere to the fish.
  2. Pour pil-pil sauce on top, garnish with freshly chopped parsley, the cooked guindilla peppers and fried garlic.

Tips

If the pil-pil sauce does not result in a thick emulsion, here are a few tricks to obtain the right consistency:

  • Make mashed potatoes and mix it in with the sauce.
  • While stirring the sauce in the pan, add a tablespoon of whole milk.
  • Pour the sauce into a container and use an immersion blender to whip the sauce.
  • Remove half of the sauce from the pan, add a pinch of cornstarch and use the immersion blender.

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