Introduction: Spanish cuisine is a treasure trove of flavors and history, with each region boasting its unique dishes and culinary traditions. One such dish that has stood the test of time is “Bacalao a la Vizcaína,” a delectable cod preparation hailing from the Basque Country. This recipe has been passed down through generations, and its rich, hearty flavors continue to captivate palates around the world. Join us as we delve into the history and art of making this iconic Spanish dish.
Historical Context: Bacalao a la Vizcaína, also known as Bacalao a la Bilbaína, originates from the coastal town of Bilbao in the Basque region of Spain. The dish showcases the Basque people’s deep connection to the sea and their skillful use of salted cod, a staple in their cuisine for centuries. Cod, or “bacalao” in Spanish, was preserved by salting and drying it, making it a valuable source of sustenance for sailors and communities living inland.
1. Desalting the Cod:
- Place the salted codfish in a large bowl.
- Cover it with cold water and refrigerate for 24 hours, changing the water 3-4 times to remove excess salt.
- After desalting, drain the cod and cut it into 2-inch (5cm) pieces. Set aside.
2. Roast the Peppers:
- Preheat your broiler or stovetop flame to high.
- Place the red and green bell peppers directly over the flame or under the broiler until their skins blister and blacken.
- Transfer the roasted peppers to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let them steam for 10 minutes.
- Peel the peppers, remove seeds, and slice them into thin strips. Set aside.
3. Create the Sauce:
- In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
- Add the chopped onion and garlic, sautéing until they turn translucent and fragrant.
- Stir in the chopped tomatoes, roasted pepper strips, paprika, and cayenne pepper. Cook for about 10 minutes until the mixture becomes a thick sauce.
- Pour in the white wine and simmer until it reduces by half.
- Add the chicken or fish broth and continue to simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
- If desired, use a blender or food processor to blend the sauce until smooth. Return it to the saucepan.
4. Cook the Cod:
- Place the codfish pieces into the sauce, making sure they are submerged.
- Simmer gently for about 15-20 minutes, or until the cod becomes tender and flakes easily.
- Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
5. Garnish and Serve:
- Transfer the Bacalao a la Vizcaína to a serving platter.
- Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and, if desired, hard-boiled eggs and olives.
- Serve hot, accompanied by crusty bread or steamed rice to soak up the delicious sauce.
Conclusion: Bacalao a la Vizcaína is a testament to the enduring charm of Spanish cuisine. With its roots deeply embedded in the Basque region’s maritime history, this dish offers a taste of tradition that has transcended generations. Whether enjoyed in the heart of Bilbao or in your own kitchen, its rich flavors and cultural significance make it a true gem in the world of gastronomy. Give it a try, and savor the taste of Spain’s coastal heritage.