So it don't look too appetising ... and its so stiff you could use it as a handy head-bashing mallet ... and for those more sensitive and precious readers out there ... the smell will have you reaching for the stemetil ... but for all novice cooks with even just a passing interest in mediteranean food, this is something of a culinary holygrail!
I can't remember when I first heard of bacala or when I came across someone actually cooking with this particular variant of salt cod ... but I've always wanted to know what people did with these hard bits of desicated fish. I knew that the Portuguese and Italians used it ... but it still seemed a little hardcore ... when I spoke to JP about how her mother used it ... she made it sound so matter-of-fact and oh so delicious ... I was determined to try it more than ever. Its not exactly hard to come by, most delis have a few pieces on offer ... so it must be a staple of some sorts.
Of course, everytime we had the opportunity to purchase one, I was the one that chickened out. Thankfully M had the gumption to ignore my lack of enthusiasm and dilligently changed the water every now and then .... you have to soak this overnight and change the water to re-constitute it and also to remove the bulk of the salt.
bacala soaking overnight
We bought one piecs of salt cod at our local IGA on Saturday and had it soaking overnight for Sunday.
We then had to cut the fish into smaller pieces and poached these in a mixture of milk and water, bay leaves, garlic and peppercorns.
inspiration for our bacala dinner
Next came the painstaking process of removing the bones. We used some of the fish to make fish balls - and the rest went into a Portuguese dish of bacala with potatoes and olives.
bacala out of the poaching liquid
The flavour of the fish wasn't as strong as I thought it would be ... but it was a terrific meal. I only wish they had salt cod fillets ... I've never seen these ... only the whole fish. Having to deal with the bones was a drainer!!!
bolinos de bacalhau - or portuguese cod cakes (from two fat ladies)
bacalhau a gomes de sa - or salt cod with potatoes & egg (from piripri strafish - tessa kiros)
PS ... my piece of truffle still doesn't look like it has ripened at all ... did I buy a dud??