Chef Walter’s Flavors + Knowledge: Baccala’ With Cauliflower Casserole
Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Master Chef Walter Potenza, GoLocalWorcester Food Expert
Dried and salted cod, sometimes referred to simply as salt cod, is cod which has been preserved by drying after salting. Cod which has been dried without the addition of salt is stockfish. Salt cod was long a major export of the North Atlantic region, and has become an ingredient of many cuisines around the Atlantic and in the Mediterranean. With the sharp decline in the world stocks of cod, other salted and dried white fish are sometimes marketed as "salt cod", and the term has become to some extent a generic name.
Dried and salted cod has been produced for over 500 years in Newfoundland, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands, and most particularly in Norway where it is called klippfisk, literally "cliff-fish". Traditionally it was dried outdoors by the wind and sun, often on cliffs and other bare rock-faces. Today klippfisk is usually dried indoors with the aid of electric heaters.
Serves: 4 to 6
1 head of cauliflower, stems discarded, washed, cut into florets and blanched
4 medium potatoes (about 1 lb.) thinly sliced
2 lb. baccala’, dried salted cod fish
7 tablespoons of olive oil
2 medium size onions finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic
½ cup of chopped Pachino or cherry tomatoes
3 salted anchovies fillets rinsed.
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts (you can substitute with chopped toasted almonds)
1/3 cup currants or raisins
Salt and pepper to taste
2 pinches of saffron, dissolved with ½ ladle of warm water
¼ cup breadcrumbs
Prefer boneless baccala’, because the removal of the bones and skin it is not an easy job. Place the baccala’ in a 6 quart sauce pot with about 4 quarts of cold water. Soak for 48 to 72 hours, or until the salt has been removed, changing the water every 12 hours. Drain the baccala’ and cut it into chunks about 2 X 3 inches, which will be easy to do once it has been soaked. Keep it refrigerated in a covered container, until ready to use.
The Cauliflower and the Potatoes; Set to boil a pot of water with a teaspoon of salt. Wash and cut the cauliflower dividing it into florets. Add to the boiling water, and when the water boils again, cook for 2 minutes. Florets will be tender and in the center still a little hard. Using a slatted spoon, remove the cauliflower from water and set on side. Using the same water, blanch the potatoes by immerging briefly into boiling water. Remove from water using a slatted spoon and set on side.
The Sauce; In the sauce pan, over a high flame, heat 6 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chopped onions and the garlic cloves, sauté until translucent. Remove garlic and discard. Add the tomatoes and while stirring constantly, slowly add ½ cup of water. Reduce heat to medium and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the cauliflower, raise heat to high and stir slowly, and cook for additional 5 minutes; in fact as the cauliflower cooks up and lightly attaches to the pan, it will acquire a unique smell and taste. In a small plate, using a fork, mash the anchovies with 1 tablespoon of oil. Lower the flame on the sauce, add anchovies, pine nuts and currants, and simmer for about 5 minutes. Add pepper to taste and check if salt is needed. Remove from flame and set on the side.
The Assembly; Spread evenly 1/3 of the sauce at bottom of the saucepan, and place the potatoes on top, sprinkle over some salt and pepper. Place another 1/3 of sauce over potatoes and place the pieces of baccala’ on the top of the cauliflower sauce. Cover with remaining sauce, drizzle on top the saffron dissolved in water and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Bring to the table in the same saucepan in which the baccala’ was cooked and serve with plenty of sourdough bread and a light and young white wine.
Master Chef Walter Potenza is the owner of Potenza Ristorante in Cranston, Chef Walters Cooking School and Chef Walters Fine Foods. His fields of expertise include Italian Regional Cooking, Historical Cooking from the Roman Empire to the Unification of Italy, Sephardic Jewish Italian Cooking, Terracotta Cooking, Diabetes and Celiac. Recipient of National and International accolades, awarded by the Italian Government as Ambassador of Italian Gastronomy in the World. Currently on ABC6 with Cooking Show “Eat Well." Check out the Chef's website and blog