Baccalá with Spicy-Briney Calabrian Sauce
Made with Spicy Calabrian Sauce
2 pounds center-cut skinless boneless salt cod (baccala), prepared
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion
1 (4-ounce) jar nonpareil capers in brine, drained
4 ½ teaspoons spicy Tomato ‘Nduja, optional
1 jar Spicy Calabrian Sauce
1 teaspoon sea salt
6 grape or cherry tomatoes
½ pound pitted calamata olives
1 lemon, halved
Bunch fresh basil, chopped
Prepare and soak your baccalá at least 3 days prior. Follow Nonna’s Note (see below) to learn how to prepare your baccalá, step by step.
Heat oven to 375˚F.
In a cast iron or oven-safe skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat until hot, but not smoking.
Add onion and sauté until golden, 3 to 4 minutes.
Add Tomato ‘Nduja, capers, Spicy Calabrian Sauce and salt. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
Add cod, olives, fresh tomatoes, juice from lemon halves and the lemon.
Transfer to the oven and roast until fish becomes brown and tomatoes start to blister, about 20 to 25 minutes.
Remove from the oven and serve.
Nonna’s Note: Baccalà— Italian for salted codfish—Dried and salted fish doesn’t sound like something to get too excited about. But if you ask an Italian about baccalà 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 Italian families (including my own).
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:
When you pick out a piece of baccalà remember that the color of the fish should be close to white and the skin light colored. If the 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 I 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.