Baccalà— is Italian for salted codfish—comes mostly from the coast of Labrador and Newfoundland, where it’s fished, salted and exported all over the world. Dried and salted fish doesn’t sound like something to get too excited about. But if you ask an Italian about baccalà, or salted cod, you’ll see their eyes light up. Salt-dried cod has been used in Mediterranean recipes for thousands of years and it has become a Christmas Eve favorite for many traditional Italian families.
Salt-dried cod is delicious when prepared correctly. It’s slightly firm and mild in flavor, and it pairs well with acidic flavors, such as tomatoes, marinated artichokes, and capers. Here are some helpful tips to bring your baccala to life:
Christmas Eve Baccalà: Step by Step
When you pick out a piece of baccalà remember that the color of the meat should be close to white and the skin light colored. If the meat color tends towards yellow, do not buy it.
If sold whole, try to buy a long, thick fish; if possible it should be a bit more than one-inch thick in the middle of the filet.
If it’s not already packed and wrapped in plastic, and you’re allowed to smell it, remember that its odor, even if a bit intense, must be of fish and nothing else (no chemical smells should be evident).
At least two days prior to cooking (but we recommend 3 days), you should begin soaking your salted baccalà in fresh water (at least 36-48 hours). First wash the pieces thoroughly, eliminating all the salt on the surface, and then completely submerge in any container that will hold a lot of water; change the water at least three times a day (every eight hours or even more frequently).
Just before cooking, peel off the skin and eliminate any bones—a pair of small pliers will be very helpful for this.
To learn more about the history of baccalà, click here!