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Cooking With Salt Cod... Flamenco Stew

A few weeks ago I saw a show with Andrew Zimmerman. He was in Iceland and profiling a chef who was re known with he could do with salt cod, a valuable commodity in Scandinavia. I then got to thinking of a delicious Brandade de Morue I had and was determined to make it. Until I saw all the cups of olive oil involved in making this heavenly codfish paste like dish. So then I took I out my books on Spain. The Spanish should thank a fish merchant named Gurtubay from Bilbao whose order was mistaken for 30-40 bundles of salt cod/Bacalao to 30,040. Stuck with this excess inventory he thought he was screwed. But a Carlist War broke out, food ran low, and the population turned to the merchant for his dried salt cod.Needless to say he racked up! I read this fact in my Culinaria Spain. The Spanish had used salt cod before going back to the 16th century. It was well preserved , could travel, and adapted for dishes during Lent. I remember my Nigerian father incorporating stock fish, or salt cod in his stews and soups. As a child I didn't get it, but know see that flavor that the adults relished.

The trick to using salt cod is to soak it for at least 24- 48 hours and change the water frequently. Its not so widely used in the US, but one can find it in Hispanic or Italian stores. I found mine in the local Treasure Island. For a poor mans fish, it can be awfully expensive. More so than fresh fish. It normally comes in a wooden crate.Don't let the initial smell deter you.

I decided to make a dish I got from Spain and The World Table by the Culinary Institute of America. I won this book a while back from Andrea, and this is the first recipe I made. Flamenco stew is based on the classic Lenten Soups and stews of Spain. I figured I had most of the ingredients. There is a a lot of prep involved but what I got was one of the best fish based stews/ soups I have ever tasted! The house had a fragrant, yet non fishy aroma. What I loved were the salt cod balls that reminded me of matzo balls. Perfect as this weather turns to fall for us here in Chicago.

Flamenco Stew adapted from a recipe from Kisko Garcia, Spain And The World Table, the Culinary Institute of America

serves 8
12 oz salt cod
2 cups dried chickpeas
For the Stew
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
2 1/2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
Pinch of Saffron
1 bay leaf
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 lbs potatoes
1 lb fresh spinach( stemmed ,washed, and chopped)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Salt Cod Balls
2 eggs
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
2 teaspoons minced garlic
shredded salt cod from above
4 cups breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
Desalt the salt cod. Soak in water, refrigerated for 24-48 hours. Change water at least 5 times. Drain well. Soak chickpeas overnight.
Place salt cod in medium sauce pan with 10 3/4 cups of water. Bring to a simmer. Remove the fish and save the water! Allow fish to cool and pick out any bones if any.Do not throw out the water!
Heat oil in a Dutch Oven. Cook until tender for 5 minutes and then add garlic, and paprika. Stir and cook for 1 minute until fragrant. Add the chickpeas and reserved water from the salt cod. Bring to boil. Add saffron and bay leaf. . Reduce to medium heat m cover, and simmer 1 hour. Add salt and cook for another 30 min- 1 hour until chickpeas are tender. Add potatoes and simmer for 30 min. Stir in spinach and pepper and remove from heat. Let stand while you make the salt cod balls.
Beat eggs in a bowl. Add parsley, garlic, shredded salt cod, and breadcrumbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Shape into 1 1/2 inch balls and set aside.
Taste the stew and adjust seasonings to your tastes. Bring back to simmer on a low heat . Add the salt cod balls and poach gently for 5 minutes or until cooked.

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Mary said...

That stew looks really yummy! I wouldn't know where to get salt cod around here, but I'll put it on the list of things to look for when I go to the big city next!

Rosie said...

A delicious looking stew and just great for the cooler weather coming my way! I have never tried salt cod only because I have never been able to score it out.

Rosie x

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

A very interesting recipe! That stew must taste mighty good!



Anonymous said...

Baccala! We italians usually make this on christmas eve. It's baked with potatoes, olives, onions, tomatoes..and yes, drizzled with good olive oil. I love it! Your recipe reminds me of the holidays, courtney.
Maryann xox

Ivy said...

We eat salted cod in Greece and it does taste terrific. Our Greek specialty is deep fried fish patties, coated with a beer batter and served with skordalia (aioli). Your stew sounds great and more cod recipes are welcome. Here is Greece as well used to be considered the fish for the poor but not any more. It costs more than fresh fish.

kittie said...

I absolutely love baccala - having been converted to it when on holiday in catalonia.

I've only cooked with in a couple of times though - despite being able to get it really cheaply at my local store. Your stew looks so delicious, I might have to pick some up soon :)

Darius T. Williams said...

I absolutely love watching Bizarre Foods. It's a great show! I wouldn't eat half the stuff he eats...which is why I watch him!


Núria said...

Hey how lovely you cooked something Spanish related! I love salted Cod fish!!!! I do cook it often but your recipe looks so different.... gotta try your Flamenco Stew!!!!

Nik Snacks said...

Salt fish, is what my grandma used to buy. She'd soak it overnight, fry it up, make some fry bread, and eat it. I don't think I've made a fish stew before. Ciopinno yes, It's going on my list. I need more omega-3s in my life.

Heather said...

I love to say bacalao. Bacalao. It's how my cat sounds when he meows.

That is a great-looking soup. I have a lot of greens coming out of the garden and was thinking about a soup, but I always make the same white bean, kale and (insert favorite sausage here). Salt cod is so interesting.

Dee said...

Salted fish is very common here, but not cod. Would love to try this if I manage to scare up some. I love the name of the dish :)

Joy said...

I have never tried salt cod, but that stew is tempting me...

giz said...

On the Canadian east coast, salt cod is a popular number as it is with Italian families. We see it alot around here. One would think it was indeed horribly salty but not the case - it's so good.

Dhanggit said...

Oh I felt like you gave me a free trip to Spain...I could imagine the taste of this flamenco stew...hmmm delicious!

Proud Italian Cook said...

Thats a great photo of your "Baccala" stew. A nice bowl of this on a cool day, perfect!

Deborah said...

I have never had salt cod before - I don't think I've ever even seen it around here. It does have me intrigued though!

Ellieut said...

Though I have heard of it I had no idea what salt cod was for. How cool! It looks wonderful!

Gabi said...

Oh boy-stew weather yay! This one looks good- I haven't really worked with salt cod but I'm willing to try :)

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Wow, Courtney, you really manage to put together some amazing challenges. Salt cod has always scared me.

Emiline said...

The stew sounds delicious.
That kind of makes me mad that the cod was so expensive - you're absolutely right, isn't it supposed to be more affordable?

linda said...

That must have been delicious!
In Croatia salted fish is eaten on Christmas eve. And it's very expensive as well.

Jeanne said...

I can never decide whether I lke bacalao or not. On the one hand, I have eaten it in restaurants and enjoyed it, but have never considered cooking with it. On the one hand, I think it's psychological - I just look at the dried, salty pieces and my mind filters out the fact that they will be soaked and rehydrated, and just thinks "ewww, fish jerky!" There is something about it that reminds me distressingly of kitty snacks :o) The other reason is that hubby says he could not cope with the smell - he's funny that way ;-)

I think you are very brave leaping into this multi-step unfamiliar recipe, but it looks as if the end result was WAY worth it!

Peter M said...

Well, well, #1 B-king groupie has banged out a fab Spanish stew...cod is so moist and resilient...great for those cool evenings coming up.

Megan said...

We just had cod balls this weekend made with salt cod. I didnt make it though. I yes, it was pricy!!!