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.
Lots of flavors in this dish, looks great!!
Thanks. Love salt cod!
This is exactly make fresh cod. How does using baccala make the taste different, do you think? Thanks for the polenta recipe. Using marscapone in new to me.
It’s not just the fish flavor, it’s also the texture that is so unique.
Polenta and Baccalà is one of my favorite combinations 😋 What a great dish 😋
What a wonderful recipe. I love it :)
Thanks. It’s so satisfying!
You have elevated this humble ingredient magnificently Mimi! I love the tomato and polenta.
I grew up with salt cod, my Aunt Marys cod cakes were a favorite of mine. There was always a box in the back of our refrigerators!
I loved those wooden boxes when I was a kid, and I’d keep them for trinkets. But then they just smelled too bad and I had to throw them away!
I know, they were little special items! I still see that same box in our grocery stores.
I’m actually a fan of baccalà. (Funny I know about this and not vodka sauce.) Ha! I’ve had a few variations of salted cod when I’ve been in Spain. This recipe sounds fantastic! :-) ~Valentina
It’s so good, and so different than cod. As you know!
I have always wanted to eat Salt Cod but I have never seen it here in NZ. Maybe somebody will comment and enlighten me. This dish sounds delightful which I will save in the hope that I find Baccala. Thanks Mimi :))
Oh goodness, I’m sorry about that. But you at least have lots of wonderful seafood there! I remember the green-lipped mussels in NZ most of all!
I’ve never tried baccala, but this looks delicious! I’m on it!
It’s worth trying! It’s just different!
We don’t get salt cod here, but we have something called bokkoms which is a local fish, salted and air dried. And it has a pungent smell. But you use it the same way, making these types of recipes easily adaptable.
Oh interesting!!! I’m sure it’s very similar.
i love that wooden box! and i love salted cod. a fave is when you mix it with mashed potato to make a sort of dip. oh yes brandade.
Oh yes. That’s good.
We use salt cod quite often and it is worth of that long process of soaking. We make pate and cod potato stew in most of the cases. I have never seen anything that would look like your recipe suggestion and I love it. Printing!!!!!!!!!!!!!
A salt cod pate?!! Wow, please post that recipe!!!
I have never tried to make salt cod myself, but I had a wonderful salt cod brandade when we visited the south of France. I baked it and served with a big green salad, and it was fantastic. Will have to try your recipe someday!
Oh I love brandade! I’ve only made it with salmon, which I know isn’t traditional.
I’ve never tried salt cod, but that recipe sure looks good!
I hope you get a chance to try it sometime!
This really does sound good, no question. I’ve never had salt cod. I had never even heard of it until a few years ago when I was looking for ways to cook fresh cod.
Well, fresh cod is certainly good, too. But it’s worth a taste, for sure.
Salt cod isn’t something I’ve ever had! This dish is enough to make me want to try it though. Sounds yummy!
It’s really fantastic, even though we don’t need to salt cod any more for storage purposes, since we have refrigerators. But I’m gad they keep salting it!
As you may know, I absolutely adore baccalà! And this looks like a fine way to enjoy it, quite similar to the Neapolitan style (minus the polenta). Have you ever tried baccalà alla vicentina? There they also combine it with polenta, it’s a nice combo.
No! I’ll have to check that out! Thanks.
I tried using salt cod, but could not stand the smell of it while soaking! But the sauce and polenta look so good, I may use them with fresh fish. :)
Oh no! It is a funny fish and salty smell!
That does look delicious. I’ve not had salt cod before but I do love regular cod.
That would be excellent as well with this sauce.
Oh, yum! I love every single thing about this recipe, Mimi! The rich tomato sauce with the olives sounds perfect with the cod, and I love that this recipe uses mascarpone. I’ll be checking out that salt cod breakfast post next!
Oh do! That is one fabulous recipe!
I would’ve never thought to pair salt cod with polenta, but this looks so good and sounds so flavorful! I really like the addition of mascarpone to the polenta. It must make it super creamy.
I think it mostly works because of the red sauce…
All salt cod dishes are on the top of my list, they are just delcious, so good even I am allergic to it, I still eat them, just with anti histamine on the side. You recipe looks amazing
Oh no! I’m so sorry you are allergic!!!
I have always wanted to try salt cod. Not easy to find so I am wondering if there is a difference in texture between the fresh cold and the salted? This recipe sounds fabulous!
Definitely a textural difference. I hope you can find some because it’s worth trying.
My word, I don’t know how I missed this! This baccalà recipe was something we had often in Italy , and loved it. Just added this to my paprika — now I need to source salt cod in the desert…
I love salt cod! This was a great recipe.