As a child I didn’t find much to look forward to on Good Friday in our hometown of Agoo, La Union.
Dad and mom did not allow us to do much—no swimming, playing or listening to music. At 3 p.m. we were asked to be completely silent. By late afternoon, we prepared ourselves for the Semana Santa procession.
The highlight of our day was always mom’s bacalao.
Now, bacalao has become a Good Friday tradition for us. I have shared many of my recipes. For a change, I sought out a dear friend, Punta Fuego’s famed Basque chef Mikel Ariet, to share two of his.
Perhaps this will help you decide if you still wish to cook it the way you’ve always done, or be brave enough to try something new.
If you are cooking bacalao the traditional way in olive oil and tomatoes, baked and topped with bell peppers, why not spruce it up by adding capers, olives (kalamata and/or manzanilla), coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley or cilantro and an assortment of bell peppers (red, yellow and green)?
I have friends who add paprika, jalapeño and chili flakes to their versions, plus herbs such as oregano and bay leaf. I did mine once with garlic-infused Spanish olive oil that I chanced upon at SM Hypermart, and it was fantastic.
Another time, I sprinkled organic Spanish olive oil on it before serving. Delicious!
How about using full cream milk for soaking? Do it on the third and fourth liquid change and see if that makes the fish taste creamier.
I like using lomo de bacalao, which I buy at Terry’s. I soak the lomo for no more than 16 hours.
The soaking is perhaps the trickiest of the bacalao preparation because it really depends on the type of bacalao you get.
Have a blessed Holy Week and a very Happy Easter!
Some tips from chef Mikel:
Soak the bacalao in fresh water, with the skin facing up, 6ºC, in the chiller. This helps keep the fish whole. For both my recipes, 36-hour soaking is important.
Soak for 36 hours, depending on the thickness of the fish
Within the 36 hours, change water 4 times.
Remember that the flesh must be fully submerged in water, thus the skin must be facing you, on the water surface.
Bacalao is a white fish; the right way to cook is very slow and pink inside.
If it turns out too salty, add potatoes to serve as foil to the saltiness.
Mikel’s Ensalada de Bacalao con Naranjas
Fresh, seasonal and light salad for Holy Week, traditionally from the Mediterranean coast line.
200 g bacalao
100 g black olives
2 pc orange navel Valencia
100 g fresh garlic, pounded
40 g fresh celery
1 tbsp pimiento/Spanish Paprika
For the dressing:
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 tbsp honey
One pinch of salt if need it.
Follow bacalao soaking instructions above. Simmer in olive oil for 3 minutes each side at 70 C.
Remove the skin and separate in layers very delicately, and set aside.
Peel oranges and cut into wedges. Give garlic a quick sauté in a pan with olive oil
Once all ingredients are ready, begin to layer them to make the salad. Arrange bacalao, then top with orange, fresh garlic, olives, and add paprika and parsley.
For the dressing:
Combine ingredients in a bowl. Season to taste. Pour over salad. Toss.
Mikel’s Bacalao con Guisantes
Typical Holy Week dish in the Northern part of Spain
300 g bacalao
400 g green peas
1 clove of garlic
½ c of dry white wine
4 pc eggs
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Follow bacalao soaking instruction above. Blanche the green peas and set aside.
Poach the eggs.
In pan, sauté garlic and onion (chopped very thinly) in olive oil. Add bacalao and allow to cook very slowly, 3 minutes at very low temperature. Don’t overcook. Set aside.
In another pan, add blanched green peas and white wine; salt, if needed. Simmer all.
Once the green peas are cooked, add bacalao and simmer for 1 more minute to mix and make the sauce sticky.
In one plate, ladle green peas, top with bacalao and serve with poached egg in each.
Garnish with parsley.
My book Kitchen “Rescue 3, The Directory—My Lifeline to Eating, Cooking and Living,” is now available at all leading bookstores; call 6474744.