Bacalao a la Vizcaina (Cod Fish Stew)

Bacalao a la Vizcaina (Cod Fish Stew)
Bacalao a la Vizcaina (Cod Fish Stew)

Whenever I make this dish it takes me back…way back. The first time I had a taste of this Spanish-style cod stew, I must’ve still been a toddler and I never get tired of it.

Where does Bacalao a la Vizcaina come from

This dish is well known around the world and there is some debate as to the variations in the ingredients of the dish. However, the star ingredient is always the Cod fish which is found in abundance along the coast of Spain. This dish in fact, originated from the Basque region in Northern Spain.

Over 200 years ago when there was no refrigeration, fisherman had to find ways of preserving the fish when it was in abundance. They started to cure the fish in salt. This is actually the easiest way to find it in markets around the world. It requires soaking in water over a 24 hour period but it is well worth the wait. If you’re able to find it fresh, you can skip that part and the actual cooking time is a bit less as well.

Traditionally this dish is served around Lent season. In my grandma’s house though, we were lucky enough that she made it at least once every couple of months. This has to be hands down my favorite fish recipe of all time.

How to make Bacalao a la Vizcaina

I have never come across any other dish that tastes quite like it. This recipe has a Caribbean flare to it, being that my grandmother is from the island of Cuba. Since she never wrote down any of her recipes, everything I learned to cook from her, I learned from standing right beside her and paying close attention. I think this recipe is really really close to how she used to make it. I can’t say exact because she was never the measuring type. Everything she cooked was by eye and believe it or not, by smell (which I now do often times myself when making dishes that I could make with my eyes closed…almost).

Typically, the cod fillets are found in the seafood section of your market in it’s salted cured form. Rinse of the excess salt off the fillets. Place them in a large non-reactive pot and fill with enough cool water to fully immerse the fillets. Change the water several times over 24 hours before preparing to cook. I am happy to say that the wholesale super store near my home now carries fresh cod fillets. If you would like to use fresh fillets, check your local market, fish monger or wholesale super store 🙂

Once the cod is ready and cut into bite sized chunks about 2-3 inches. Make sure all spines have been removed. The rest of the recipe goes fairly quickly. Prepping all the ingredients in small bowls makes it easy to layer the dish inside a large heavy bottomed pot. Begin with a single layer of the sliced potatoes, followed by a layer of the cod pieces. The third layer is the onions, garlic and roasted red peppers. The final layer is a sprinkle of the capers, olives and raisins. Pour the tomato sauce over and place two bay leaves in the center. If using a medium sized pot, you will have to divide the ingredients in half and repeat these layers a second time. The final ingredient is the white wine. This dish deserves a good quality wine, please. Even though I always say, “never cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink out of a glass,” this dish deserves the mention.

Layers of potatoes, cod fish, onions, garlic, capers, red peppers, olives and raisins
Layers of potatoes, cod fish, onions, garlic, capers, red peppers, olives and raisins

How to serve this dish

Even though I’ve had this dish in other countries, this version is the BEST (in my humble opinion 🙂 ). After you make this version, don’t be surprised if you may come across places where the cod fillets are steamed or fried and served over the “vizcaina sauce” rather than in a stew form as in my recipe. Some people will leave out the tomato sauce altogether and the red color of the sauce will come from the red peppers. I’ve also had it where the chef adds hard boiled egg to the dish.

As far as the side dishes, they are usually mild in flavor and only served as a complement to the dish. I recommend serving the bacalao over a bed of white rice which serves merely as a vessel for the flavorful, finger licking delicious sauce. I also like to have this with a side of fried green plantains. Don’t tell anyone, but I dig a couple of the fried plantain slices underneath the sauce and let them soak it all in…YUMMM. My mouth is literally watering right now. If you would like to serve it with something a little sweet, boiled boniato (white sweet potato) goes great with this as do fried sweet plantains.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 – 2lbs Cod fillet (fresh or thawed if frozen and cut in 2-3 inch chunks)
  • 5 Russet or yellow gold potatoes (sliced crosswise 1/2 in.)
  • 2 large yellow onion, sliced thin
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 homemade roasted red peppers sliced thin or 15 oz. jar
  • 1 cup of raisins
  • 1/2 cup of capers
  • 1 cup of spanish pimento stuffed olives (cut crosswise)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 8 oz. can of tomato sauce (no salt added)
  • 1 cup good quality dry white wine (I use a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gregio)
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp. Kosher salt

Directions

  1. In a heavy bottomed large pot, add 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.
  2. Arrange the potato slices in one even layer on the bottom of the pot.
  3. Arrange the cod chunks on top of the potatoes and sprinkle with 1 tsp. of salt.
  4. Spread the sliced onions, garlic and red peppers over the cod.
  5. Sprinkle the olives, capers and raisins.
  6. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.
  7. Place the two bay leaves in the center
  8. Pour the tomato sauce over the top of the vegetables, followed by the wine.
  9. Sprinkle the remaining teaspoon of salt.
  10. Bring to a simmer over high heat and then lower the heat to medium low and cover. Cook for 30-40 minutes. DO NOT stir.
  11. At around 20 minutes remove the top and look to make sure there is enough liquid. If needed add 1/4 cup of water. Cover again and finish cooking until the potatoes are fork tender.
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Bacalao a la Vizcaina

Bacalao a la Vizcaina is a Spanish-style Cod Fish Stew.  Chunks of melt in your mouth cod fish cooked in an aromatic and specially flavored sauce. This dish is well known around the world with different variations of some ingredients. This recipe has a Caribbean flare to it and it’s out of this world.

  • Author: Jennifer
  • Prep Time: 15
  • Cook Time: 30
  • Total Time: 45
  • Yield: 68 servings 1x
  • Category: Seafood
  • Method: Easy
  • Cuisine: Spanish
Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 1/22lbs Cod fillet (fresh or thawed if frozen and cut in 23 inch chunks)
  • 5 Russet or yellow gold potatoes (sliced crosswise 1/4 in.)
  • 2 large yellow onion, sliced thin
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 homemade roasted red peppers sliced thin or 15 oz. jar
  • 1 cup of raisins
  • 1/2 cup of capers
  • 1 cup of spanish pimento stuffed olives (cut crosswise)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 8 oz. can of tomato sauce (no salt added)
  • 1 cup good quality dry white wine (I use a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gregio)
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp. Kosher salt

Instructions

  1. In a heavy bottomed large pot, add 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.
  2. Arrange the potato slices in one even layer on the bottom of the pot.
  3. Arrange the cod chunks on top of the potatoes and sprinkle with 1 tsp. of salt.
  4. Spread the sliced onions, garlic and red peppers over the cod.
  5. Sprinkle the olives, capers and raisins.
  6. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.
  7. Place the two bay leaves in the center
  8. Pour the tomato sauce over the top of the vegetables, followed by the wine.
  9. Sprinkle the remaining teaspoon of salt.
  10. Bring to a simmer over high heat and then lower the heat to medium low and cover. Cook for 30-40 minutes. DO NOT stir.
  11. At around 20 minutes remove the top and look to make sure there is enough liquid. If needed add 1/4 cup of water. Cover again and finish cooking until the potatoes are fork tender.

Notes

  • This is an excellent dish to cook the day prior and reheat when ready to serve.  The flavor is that much more delicious.
  • If using a salt cured cod fillet, soak in water for 24 hours prior to cooking, changing out the water several times. Then follow the directions as indicated on the recipe.
  • This is best served with white rice.
  • A second side such as green or sweet fried plantains pair really well with this dish.

Keywords: Bacalao a la vizcaina Cod fish stew

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