I love salt cod, otherwise known as baccalà. Years ago, I located salt cod at Whole Foods; it’s something I’d been craving since I left home! My mother used to cook it when we lived in Washington State. It came in a fishy smelling wooden box.
Before you can eat the fish, it must be soaked in fresh water for two days; the water must be replenished often. Because of the salt content, this is a necessary step before you can start cooking.
When I first purchased salt cod, early in my blogging years, I made a traditional Portuguese recipe with some, and used the rest in a breakfast recipe my mother created that I absolutely loved as a kid – salt cod with potatoes and onions, topped with a bechamel, poached egg, and capers.
So when I came upon this somewhat Greek-inspired recipe for salt cod, I knew if was time to order more, which I did. I ordered from Fulton Fish Market, that sells high quality fish and seafood.
The author of this recipe, Rebecca Wilcomb, states that “Simmering soaked salt cod in a tomato sauce filled with peppers, onion, and olives infuses the fish with flavor and leaves it flaky and tender. Sweet and creamy polenta, enriched with lightly tangy marscapone, sops up the sauce and balances the brightly flavored fish.”
Tomato-Braised Baccalà with Olives and Polenta
1 pound baccalà
6 cups water
1 tablespoon kosher salt, divided
1 1/2 cups uncooked polenta
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 cups thinly sliced yellow onion
2 tablespoons sliced garlic
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 cup dry white wine
1 (28-ounce) can San Marzano tomatoes, undrained, crushed by hand
2/3 cup pitted whole Gaeta or kalamata olives
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 fresh bay leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Lemon wedges, for serving
Place baccalà in a large bowl; add cold water to cover, and let soak in refrigerator 48 hours, changing cold water twice a day. Drain baccalà, and cut into 6 pieces (about 3 ounces each). Set aside.
Bring 6 cups water and 21/2 teaspoons salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high. Gradually add polenta, whisking constantly. Return mixture to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, uncovered, whisking occasionally, until polenta is tender and creamy, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from heat, and whisk in mascarpone until smooth. Cover to keep warm until ready to serve.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium. Add onion, garlic, and red pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and onion is translucent, about 6 minutes. Add wine, and cook, stirring occasionally, until mostly evaporated, 8 to 10 minutes.
Add crushed tomatoes and their juices, olives, oregano, black pepper, bay leaves, and remaining 1/4 cup olive oil. Cook, stirring often, until sauce is slightly thickened, about 8 minutes.
Add cod to tomato sauce, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until cod flakes easily when pressed with a fork, 16 to 20 minutes, flipping cod pieces after 10 minutes. Stir in remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt or more to taste. Remove and discard bay leaves.
Serve cod and sauce over polenta.
Sprinkle with parsley, and serve with lemon wedges. (I didn’t use lemon wedges)
The recipe author suggested a red, but the cod is so light that I chose a pinot grigio.