Bacalao is a very versatile type of fish from which every part can be used. The loins are the best known and most commonly used part, but the head, the cocochas, the skin and the tripe are also parts that can be used in torreznos, al pilpil or even for a good fumet or fish stock.
How to prepare bacalao?
Bacalao can be accompanied by anything and prepared in different ways. It is a type of fish that combines with an infinite number of ingredients, but without doubt the most commonly used are roasted peppers, potatoes, garlic and tomatoes. As for garnishes, bacalao is usually accompanied (in addition to some vegetables) with rice or salad.
As for preparation, if you are looking for an easy recipe, it is enough to grill it, but remove it when the color of the skin changes. Stewed bacalao is also very easy to prepare and can be done very quickly. In these cases it is advisable to make a stock with the fish itself (using the bones), to enhance the flavor. You should know that if you cook the bacalao in a stew, it is important to add the meat just when it is ready to be removed from the heat, otherwise the bacalao may break and overcook.
The type of bacalao you choose to cook is also very important when preparing the recipe. You will find salted bacalao, fresh bacalao and gourmet bacalao.
- Salted bacalao: This type of bacalao is used for very traditional recipes such as stews.
- Fresh: Fresh bacalao must be put in brine before use and is ideal for cooking stews or for cooking in batter.
- Gourmet: Gourmet bacalao is known as skrei and is usually found in the northern seas of Norway. This fish is characterized by its very thin and firm flesh, which makes it the most popular. Skrei can be prepared in confit, as this helps to enhance its flavor.
Baked bacalao, also known as bacalao a la portuguesa, is one of the most traditional recipes in Portuguese cuisine, but is also widely accepted in Spanish cuisine. This recipe, whose original name is bacalhau à Margarida da Praça, is very popular especially in Galicia. It is a typical dish that is prepared in the oven with potatoes and requires the fish to be desalted and browned before cooking.
- Bacalao loins
- Two large potatoes for baking
- Two good-sized onions
- A glass of cognac, brandy or white port wine
- A teaspoon of sweet paprika
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Coarse salt to taste
Desalting the bacalao
- It all depends on the bacalao you buy. If you buy it desalted, you can skip this step. If, on the other hand you have time, and salted bacalao, you need to follow a series of steps before you start cooking.
- The first thing to do is to cut the bacalao into pieces. You can also ask the fishmonger to do this for you.
- Place the bacalao in a deep pan with plenty of water. Be aware of the size of the container, as the bacalao must be completely covered for the process to work properly.
- Desalting requires sufficient time. For thicker parts, 48 hours and changing the water every 6 hours. Thinner parts, such as the loins (if the loins are open), need approximately 36 hours and the water should be changed every 8 hours.
- During desalting, the fish should be kept at a constant temperature of between 6 and 8ºC, i.e. it should be kept in the refrigerator. Do not leave it outside, as the fish can ferment at room temperature. You will know that the fish is fermented because the smell changes considerably and can be quite unpleasant.
- Peel the onion and cut into julienne strips.
- Place the onion in a large, deep frying pan, but only until the oil is hot. It is important not to let the oil burn.
- Sauté the onion for 15-20 minutes. Remove and add the paprika.
- Stir to integrate with the onion and return the pan to the heat.
- Add the wine and cook for two minutes to allow the alcohol to evaporate.
- Reserve the onion and its sauce, but do not discard the pan, as you will use it again.
- Peel the potatoes in slices of the same thickness.
- Heat plenty of oil in the frying pan and fry the potatoes, but leave them a little raw, as they will be baked in the oven later.
- Dust the bacalao with flour.
- Remove the frying pan from the heat and remove the excess oil.
- Place the bacalao in the pan and sear them for one or two minutes on each side.
- Preheat the oven to 200º C.
- Place the potatoes in a special dish and add a pinch of salt. Place the bacalao on top of the potatoes and cover with the onion and its sauce.
- Lower the oven temperature to 170º C, heat up and down.
- Leave to bake for 15 to 20 minutes.