Creamy salt cod

Creamy salt cod

Baccalà mantecato

By
From
Venice
Makes
1 kg
Photographer
Helen Cathcart

Gosh, what a heated argument you can get into when you start discussing how to make the best, most creamy, light, tasty, not too salty, not too garlicky baccalà mantecato. Our friend Arianna shared the recipe below and it’s light and creamy. Small amounts are spread onto crostini or squares of black and white polenta and served in every bacaro on the streets of Venice. Both baccalà and stockfish are air-dried cod, but baccalà is salted first. How baccalà came to Venice is pretty special so I have to share the story with you.

In 1431, Captain Querini and his sailors were on a voyage to bring spices back from Crete to the North Sea. On 25 April they were shipwrecked in a terrible storm and drifted at sea until they reached the Lofoten islands. The locals made them welcome and introduced them to their food and customs. The men were fishermen and fished for cod during their days. Story has it that they didn’t just share their food with the ship’s crew but were also happy to share their wives during their long days at sea. Months later only some of the sailors and Captain Querini returned home while the others decided to stay! Stockfish was brought back to Venice and trade began between Norway and Venice that continues to this day. To bring the fish back to life, almost, soak it in the fridge for two days changing the water at least six times during that period. Taste a little to see if it is still very salty and if it is keep soaking. When the fish is soft and flexible and pleasantly rather than overpoweringly salty it’s ready for cooking. (If you are using stockfish all you need to look for is that it is soft rather than salty.)

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
1kg baccala or stockfish, soaked
milk
1 garlic clove, peeled
200-300ml sunflower oil
fine salt
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped

Method

  1. Put the fish into a large saucepan and cover it with half milk and half water. If any of the fish are in very large pieces, cut them into manageable sizes. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Allow the fish to cool in the liquid. When cool enough to touch remove the fish from the pan – don’t throw away the cooking liquid – and peel off the skin, reserving a quarter of it for later. Pick the flesh away from the bones and into a bowl. Thoroughly check through the flesh to make sure it is bone-free. Cut the reserved skin into tiny shreds with a sharp knife and add to the flesh.
  2. Put the fish into a blender with a whisk attachment, add the garlic, 200 ml of the cooking liquid and around 100 ml of the sunflower oil. Whisk for around 15 minutes slowing adding more oil in a stream as you would if making mayonnaise. It will begin to look white and fluffy; continue to add the oil until it looks creamy and soft. You may not need all of the oil. Taste and season with salt if necessary and remove the bruised garlic. Finally drizzle with the olive oil and serve on crostini or polenta with the parsley on top.
Tags:
Venice
Giancarlo
Katie
Caldesi
Venetian
Italian
European
Mediterranean
Italy
Europe
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