I’m multi-tasking as I write this, trying to get tickets for our trip to Spain as well as writing this post. I’m looking forward to our trip, and as they say, getting there is half the fun! This includes trying to make sense of the dates available for every member of our family, accomodating summer jobs, work, soccer camps and the like, which only adds to the fun of looking for available flights at reasonable fares. It’s like solving a puzzle! And when all the pieces come together there’s a big sense of accomplishment. So yes, I’m multi-tasking, because my mind works better that way, ha! In anticipation of the flight search, and to set my mind to it, I made buñuelos de bacalao, salt cod fritters. The repetitive task of rolling the balls of dough between my palms had a zen effect…
We eat fish at home quite often, even if I don’t find as many varieties of it as I find in my homeland. This scarcity is particularly true in the Midwest. I try to make the most of it, though, and have been able to replicate many of the dishes from my childhood with the fish I come by in the Midwest. Hake, though, has been the ever-elusive variety, and I’ve never been able to find it. Probably not surprising that I would want to find it and make it, given that my mom made it so often. In fact, Spain has the highest consumption of hake in Europe, and it is easily found in the Mediterranean. However, since hake is also found in the South Atlantic and South Pacific oceans, I thought it’d be easy to find in the United States, but I’ve had no luck where I live.
I’ve become a regular shopper at the Asian and oriental stores, where I have been able to find some of the species I’m after. One of my favorite fish is cod, and in particular, the salt cod you can find in Spain, which they carry at the Asian store. I love fresh cod, don’t get me wrong, but there are some very Spanish recipes based on salt cod that I adore. There are so many different ways to cook cod! I know I’ll be sharing a number of them with you. I have to confess that I’ve been holding on to posting cod recipes until now, because cod is very much the fish of Lent in Spain. It is consumed year round, but because of the way of curing and preserving cod, in salt, it became the fish of choice in Spain during Lent for centuries. Coastal towns didn’t have any problems finding fresh fish to eat on Fridays during Lent, but in the interior, salting cod was pretty much the only way they could find, and keep, fish (click here to know more about Lent in Spain).
My son Matthew has been asking me to post very typical recipes from Spain, particularly tapas, that he likes to eat most when we are there —apart from paella, his all-time favorite. So I thought this was a good opportunity to bring both together, a recipe for a cod dish that was also eaten as a tapa, and a very popular one at that. Cod fritters, are probably my favorite croqueta, as we call this kind of deep fried tapa in Spain. They are not hard to make, but like everything you make one at a time, it is labor of love —not unlike making meatballs, for instance. The result, though, is so delicious, it’s well worth it. The recipe I’m sharing, like most dishes I make, is from my favorite homecook —my mom.
One piece of advice: cod fritters, and any croqueta or buñuelo for that matter, are best recently fried, when you can appreciate the crunchy outside before sinking your teeth into the soft inside. So if you’re not going to consume them right away, I suggest you make the dough ahead of time, and save it in the fridge until ready to use. You can even make the individual balls and place them on a tray, cover the tray with plastic wrap and then place in the fridge. That way you just have to flour them and dip them into the hot oil when ready to eat. Some people freeze the dough, even the individual balls, until ready to use.
To serve, I like them just by themselves, without any other condiments, however other people like to dip them in allioli.
Now back to booking those flights.
SALT COD FRITTERS
Buñuelos de Bacalao
I used a 9-inch cazuela for serving (click here) and individual 4-in cazuelitas (click here)
1 lb salt cod
4 medium potatoes (I used Golden Idaho)
2 garlic cloves
1 Tbs finely chopped parsley
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 cup flour
1 cup olive oil, or more as needed for frying
Prepare the cod: the night before, place the salt cod in a bowl with abundant water. Change the water after a few hours. Change the water a total of 3 or 4 times before cooking.
Peel and quarter the potatoes. Mince the garlic. Separate the eggs.
Place the potatoes and the cod in a stock pot with enough cold water to cover them. Set the heat to medium-high, removing the cod from the pot just before the water starts to boil (use a slotted spoon or tongs). When the water starts to boil, lower the heat to medium and continue to cook the potatoes until tender when pierced with a fork.
When cool enough to handle, shred the cod into small pieces using your fingertips, the smaller the pieces the better, (using your fingers allows you to feel and remove any small bones you might find). Place the shredded cod in a large bowl.
When the potatoes are tender, remove them from the pot and place them in the bowl with the cod. Mash the mixture with a fork. Add the garlic, parsley and salt and combine. Stir in the egg yolks, sprinkle with fresh ground pepper, and mix well. Beat the egg whites until soft peak forms, and gently fold into the mixture.
Using a small to medium frying pan, heat the olive oil until very hot.
For the buñuelos: using 2 spoons, or an ice cream scoop, shape the fritters and place them on a tray. One at a time, roll them in flour and fry, turning them every one or two minutes, until golden on all sides. Don’t overcrowd the frying pan. Using a slotted spoon, remove the fritters from the oil and place on a plate lined with paper towels.