Wednesday, 22 December 2010

SALT COD FRITTERS (BACCALA - BACALIAROS)



Salt cod is cod that has been preserved by a method of drying and salting. In its preserved state the fish can last for a few years. Production of salt cod dates back at least 500 years, to the time Europeans discovered the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. Due to abundant nutrients and ideal water temperatures, the Grand Banks were at one time the richest fishing grounds in the world. Today, sadly, the area has been overfished. Salt cod was a vital item of commerce between the New World and the Old. In the Mediterranean, it is a traditional ingredient in the cuisine of most countries.


Easy to find during Lent: salt cod for sale at the grocer. 
In Greece, salt cod is usually fried and served with an accompaniment of skordalia (a garlic dip). In my recipe, baking powder is added to the fish batter, something which makes the fritters fluffier and lighter.

March 25, which most often falls during Lent, is the celebration of the feast of the Annunciation.



      The Annunciation by Leonardo da Vinci can be seen at the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.  

For Greeks, this feast day coincides with Greek Independence Day. That's a big deal, therefore,
the day is celebrated both with church services and with parades


March 25, Independence Day parade, Thessaloniki, Greece

When dinner time rolls around, it's very traditional to serve, among other types of seafood, salt cod and skordalia. There are various recipes for skordalia, and I have some posted on this blog. This last March 25, when I made salt cod fritters, I served them with a skordalia of potatoes, capers, and almonds. The whole meal was very enjoyable, very traditional and thanks to the skordalia, it was garlicky! Here's my version of salt cod fritters:

Ingredients:

1 and 1/2 pounds boneless, dry salted cod

1 cup of beer
1 cup all-purpose flour
about 2 cups oil for frying
1 egg, beaten

1 teaspoon baking powder
ground black pepper to taste
a dash of paprika (optional)

Directions:
  • Rinse the excess salt from the cod. Desalinate that baby as much as possible: place it in a large bowl covering it with cold water by several inches. 
  • Soak, refrigerated, for 24 hours, changing the water every four hours. 
  • When the water is drained for the last time pat the salt cod dry with paper towels.
  • Using your hands, shred the salt cod finely and place into a large bowl.
  • Mix the flour with the baking powder and black pepper. Add the paprika if using.
  • Pour the beer into a small bowl and slowly whisk in the flour, whisking until no lumps remain.
  • Stir the flour mixture into the shredded salt cod until well combined. 
  • Add the beaten egg and mix well.
  • Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, working in batches, use a spoon to mould the fish into a flat round shape about two inches in diameter. Flattening the fritters will help them cook more evenly. 
  • Carefully slip the fritters into the oil. Do not overcrowd the pan because the temperature of the oil will drop and the fritters will get soggy.
  • Cook, turning once, until golden brown, about 6 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
  • Serve warm with caper and almond skordalia click here for that recipe).