Tuesday, December 20, 2011

You're Probably Never Going to Make this . . .

But I wish you would give it a try. 
Soccafisso is a dish that was pervasive at La Taverna dell' Coleonni when I was working there.  As dude from the midwest, I didn't have much exposure to bacalao growing up, but I did take to it pretty quickly once I got a taste.   This dish rustles up a lot of memories for me, I love it and I think you will too.
On a side note, you should give this book a read if you haven't already.  It's a surprisingly interesting story of the history

Having to soak the salted fish makes this seem like a long process, but really you just have to plan ahead.  Also, where there is a market for it, you can sometimes find bacalao that has been presoaked. 

A salt cod emporium in Lisbon.
2 lbs dried Salt Cod (follow the preparations below)
1 lb. white onions, chopped finely
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsps all purpose flour
1 qt. whole milk
2 bay leaves, fresh if possible

To prepare the salt cod
1. Rinse the fish under cold running water.  In a large clean vessel, submerge it water and place it in the fridge over night.  In the morning, change out the water, and then again at night.  Repeat this whole process for one more day.  (two days and two nights total)  You might be able to buy salted cod that is pre-soaked, if so you can skip this step. 
2.  Bring a large pot of water to a simmer.  Poach the fish for 30 minutes in the simmering water. (note that there is no salt added here) The fish should be tender to bite through. 
3.  Pick through the cooked filets and make sure there are no bones. 

Be careful to not break up the flakes too much. They will breakdown further from the stirring during cooking.

For the Stoccafisso
1. Set a heavy bottomed stock pot over medium meat.  Add the olive oil and let it get nice and warm. 
2. Add the onions along with the bay leaves and stir. Cook until the onions have become slightly translucent - about 8-10 minutes.

I have a little laurel tree in my yard where I score my bay leaves.  I make little tears down each side to release more aroma.
3.  Add the flour and stir it in well.  Cooking for another 2-5 minutes. 
4. Add the prepared salt cod to the mix and add enough milk to just barely cover the fish - this probably will not require the whole quart.
5. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring often.  The sauce should thicken. Make sure that it DOES NOT scald to the pan. If it does, DO NOT scrape it up and stir it in.  Instead, transfer to a new pot to continue cooking. 
***At this point be sure to test it for salt. ***
6. To finish the stoccafisso, transfer it to a casserole dish.  Cover with a copious amount of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano and a nice olive oil.  Stick it under a broiler for long enough to get golden brown. 

Serve with soft polenta.  

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