Not long ago I did a post on salted cod, (Bacalao Gudisado, or Stewed Codfish – 12/20/20). In that recipe I hailed the properties of salted codfish. Salted cod was ubiquitous back in my day in Spanish Harlem. In midwinter, when fish was scarce and you just didn’t want to do frozen fish, salt cod was the answer. Dried salt cod has been a common staple throughout the Mediterranean basin. It is , even to this day, well represented in Spanish, Greek, Portuguese and French cuisine. Even Indian cuisine indulges in it, The problem with salt cod is that it’s labor intensive. These days , most people would just rather get fresh fish from the supermarket or frozen fish from the shelve. And that is sad, simply because salted cod has a magic all its own.
You’ll discover that in the recipe given. It combines eggplant with bacalao (as call it), or bacala (as it is known to our Italian brethren). Figure it this way: want to give that spectacularly special dinner to hubby, honey, family or friends? This dish is it. Believe me, they’ll sing your praises. Yes, it’s time intensive, but the results will be more than worth the effort. Be adventurous, and go for it!
Salt cod goes back to the days when fish was salted so that it could travel overseas without spoiling. That means it has a high sodium content. So, to prepare, you soak the cod in salt water overnight. Then drain and and rinse under cold running water. Finally, you simmer the cod in boiling water for 15 minutes. Drain again and, when it is cooled, remove bones and flake the fish so that is it ready to cook. These days you can find salt cod that is deboned and already flaked. If your store or supermarket has it, you’re ahead of the game.
The usual accompaniment to this dish is rice. But you can serve it with whatever grain you want or even pasta. This time around we served it with Farro, the wheat grain similar to barley that has gained a wide following in the U.S.
BACALAO Y BERENJENA EN CASEROLA
1 eggplant (about 1½ to 2 pounds)
1 cup olive oil
2 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1½ pounds dried salt cod (prepared for cooking, see above)
1 16-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons butter’
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Peel the eggplant and trim off ends. Cut the eggplant into six to eight slices, each about ½-inch thick.
- Heat ¾ cup of olive oil in a large skillet or frying pan and sauté over moderate heat until eggplant begins to brown (about 3 minutes on each side). Drain on absorbent paper towels.
- Wipe skillet or frying pan clean. Heat remaining olive oil and sauté onions and garlic until onions are limp and translucent.
- In a greased casserole dish, arrange alternate layers of eggplant, onions and flaked codfish. Pour crushed tomatoes over contents in casserole.
- Bake for thirty minutes. Then dot with butter and bake 10 minutes more.
Yield: 6 servings.