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

Easy Homemade Tomato Salsa

It’s been a couple of days since I posted a recipe. We’ve been out making preparations for Hurricane Dorian, trying to beat the crowds as the storm approaches. These are the times when I feel so blessed to have my easiest go-to recipes memorized by heart, like this super easy tomato salsa. I can just look in my refrigerator, see what I have and start cooking as much as I can. When the electricity goes out and the storm passes, all I have to do is warm the food on the gas grill. This way, the only cooking I should have to do is grilling hot dogs and hamburgers.

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Creamy Deviled Egg Salad

This creamy deviled egg salad recipe is easy to make and it tastes delicious. After you try it, you may have to double the recipe and add it to your brunch menu. Whoever loves deviled eggs will love this recipe. Served as a side, in a sandwich or over a bed of butter lettuce with sliced heirloom tomatoes and celery sticks for a complete meal on its own. I could literally take a spoon and eat this right out of the mixing bowl!

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Back to School Lunch Ideas

I can’t believe how quickly this summer has gone by. The first day of school is just a few days away. Uniforms…check, books and supplies…check. Last thing to do is to come up with fresh and new ideas for back to school lunches. This has always been kind of frustrating for me because I have everything from the picky eater, to the vegetarian and everything else in between.

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Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad

There is nothing better than cooking with fruits and vegetables that are in season. Now a days we can find pretty much anything in the market, in season or not. But when you bake a cobbler with ripe in-season peaches…GLORIOUS! For the best tasting Caprese salad ever, I chose beautiful heirloom tomatoes because Summer=Tomatoes=Happiness.

sliced yellow and red heirloom tomatoes, bufala mozzarella, fresh basil leaves and balsamic glaze
Quick and easy summer time salad with heirloom tomatoes and bufala mozzarella

WHAT IS A CAPRESE SALAD AND WHY THE HEIRLOOM TOMATOES?

Potted herb garden with basil thyme and rosemary
Basil, thyme and rosemary from the garden

Caprese salad is a simple Italian salad made with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, sweet basil and seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper. Not only does this salad pack a punch of flavor but you can make it in 5 minutes, really. The tomatoes are sliced and are arranged on a plate alternating with thick slices of fresh mozzarella and garnished with basil. This is a very popular summer salad because its refreshinf, tomatoes are in season and did I mention its so easy to make. This is typically served as an appetizer but add slices of (store bought..yes you read correctly) roasted chicken breast for an delicious weeknight meal. This is a great time to use fresh basil from your garden. My garden is really small as I’m not so great (I’m terrible actually) at growing plants but herbs are a bit more manageable in small containers that I can place right on my windowsill. For my twist on the traditional Caprese, I left out the cracked pepper and olive oil. I did add a drizzle of balsamic glaze.

As I was shopping ingredients for another recipe I happened upon the most beautiful, colorful, perfectly ripe heirloom tomatoes today and voila an heirloom tomato salad appeared on my kitchen counter for lunch. I’m a little embarrassed to say that the first time I saw an heirloom tomato was not that long ago when they opened a Whole Foods market in my area. I’ve been a city girl my whole life so farmers markets were not something I had the opportunity to frequent growing up. When I finally did see them in the market though, I have to say, I walked right by them for the longest because, let’s be honest, they are a little weird looking. Until I saw them on a cooking show so I took the plunge and goodness was that a great choice. I look forward to summertime every year just to have a bite (or two or more but who’s counting) of these delicious treats.

Bowl of red, yellow and green heirloom tomatoes
Farm stand heirloom tomato varieties

Heirloom tomatoes have been grown by generations of gardeners who did not genetically modify the tomato seeds. This means heirlooms are not as resistant to disease and have a shorter shelf life. This is also what gives them that strong tomato flavor that you won’t get from a regular tomato. Heirloom variety tomatoes are open-pollinated which means you can actually take the seeds and plant them to grow your own.

Ingredients

  • 3-4 medium – large size heirloom tomatoes of your favorite variety and color, sliced thick
  • Fresh Mozzarella, sliced thick
  • 10 sweet basil leaves
  • 2 tsp. of balsamic glaze
  • Coarse sea salt to taste

Directions

Platter of bright and juicy heirloom tomatoes with fresh mozzarella balsamic glaze and basil leaves
Best summer salad with fresh Burrata juicy heirloom tomatoes and sweet basi
  1. On a serving platter, arrange the tomato slices alternating with the mozzarella slices.
  2. Garnish with sweet basil leaves throughout.
  3. Sprinkle with sea salt.
  4. Drizzle with balsamic glaze.
  5. Enjoy!

Notes

sliced yellow and red heirloom tomato salad with bufala mozzarella and toasted crostini
Serve this delicious heirloom tomato and bufala salad with a
toasted crostini or baguette slices
  • This can be served on its own or with crunchy slices of freshly toasted crostini.
  • You can drizzle good quality olive oil and season with fresh cracked black pepper for a closer version of the traditional.
  • This can be made up to 24 hours in advance but do not season until ready to serve. This includes the balsamic glaze and the olive oil, if using.
  • You probably won’t have leftovers but if you’re lucky then cover and refrigerate. Consume the following day. Note, it will not look the same as the glaze will spread and remember that the salt will bring out the juices from the tomatoes so you will see some liquid. It should still be very tasty.
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Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad

Best summer salad ever. Make in 5 minutes with fresh mozzarella, ripe juicy heirloom tomatoes, sweet basil, sea salt and balsamic glaze.

  • Author: Jennifer
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Appetizer, Salad
  • Cuisine: Italian
Scale

Ingredients

  • 34 medium to large heirloom tomatoes (sliced thick)
  • 4 oz. Mozzarella Burrata
  • 8 sweet basil leaves
  • 2 tsp balsamic glaze
  • sea salt (to taste)

Instructions

  1. On a serving platter, arrange alternating slices of tomato and burrata
  2. Garnish with sweet basil
  3. Sprinkle with sea salt
  4. Drizzle with balsamic glaze

Notes

  • This can be served on its own or with crunchy slices of freshly toasted crostini.
  • You can drizzle good quality olive oil and season with fresh cracked black pepper for a closer version of the traditional.
  • This can be made up to 24 hours in advance but do not season until ready to serve. This includes the balsamic glaze and the olive oil, if using.
  • You probably won’t have leftovers but if you’re lucky then cover and refrigerate. Consume the following day. Note, it will not look the same as the glaze will spread through the tomatoes and the salt will bring out the juices from the tomatoes so you will see some liquid. It will still be very tasty though.

Mushroom Saffron Risotto

Rich and Creamy Mushroom Saffron Risotto

It’s no secret to all who know me that I absolutely LOVE RICE. It came as no surprise that a few years ago I thought my world was coming to an end. Due to some health issues, my Dr. said I had to change certain things about my diet, one of which, was eliminating rice altogether. Needless to say, from that point on, my mission was to do everything I could to get better and bring “rice” (and everything else that was taken away) back on the menu. Long story short…mission accomplished.

Some of my fondest memories as a child were dinners at my grandmas house. I’m pretty sure I got my love for food and cooking from her. Thank you grandma! I remember playing with my cousins and all of a sudden stopping to take in the amazing aroma coming from inside the house. It always amazed me how she would cook every meal to perfection with ease. Of all the wonderful dishes she made, I cannot remember a single meal which, “rice” was not included and sometimes even took center stage as the star in one of my all-time favorites “Arroz con Pollo” (creamy yellow rice with chicken, garnished with green peas and roasted red peppers). By the way, this was the only way, they could get me to eat either of the last two ingredients. I will soon share more about that dish so stay tuned.

Let’s talk about what is Risotto

Risotto is a traditional Italian creamy rice dish made with a short-grain, starchy variety of rice called Arborio. Naturally, the first time I tasted “risotto”, I fell in love. There are many types of risotto but what makes it consistent is the method of cooking, which allows the rice to release its starch and gives it that creamy-rich consistency we all crave, right (my mouth is actually watering right now). My favorites include seafood risotto, mushroom risotto, butternut squash risotto and for an easy to make yet so comforting meal Parmesan risotto.

It’s really hard for me to go to an Italian restaurant and order something other than whatever risotto special they have on or off the menu. That being said, I have been craving all kinds of comfort food lately and it’s made me go crazy in the kitchen whipping up all kinds of deliciousness which lead me to sharing my take on Mushroom Risotto with you today.

The first time I made mushroom risotto at home, I followed the recipe by Ina Garten. She has been such an inspiration to me. Many of my family’s favorites come from her cookbooks (which I own every single one). When I first made this dish, I followed her recipe to the letter and it is absolutely glorious. One day though, when I wanted to make it but couldn’t get to the market, I had to use what I had on hand and it turned out so good. This is the version I am going to share with you in this post. I hope you and your family love it as much as I do. First let’s talk about…

Is Rice and Risotto good for you

Whenever I make a rice dish and I give the left overs to my fan club (my parents and sisters) I always get “the look”. You know the one I mean. I know in many weight loss diets out there, rice in general is a no no for reasons I don’t believe to make sense for all of us. I am NOT a dietitian so I did a little research to find some kind of evidence that would advocate the health benefits of rice so I won’t feel so guilty every time I’m enjoying a bowl. On WebMD I found there actually is a diet that’s been around since 1939 and gained a new wave of popularity when the Rice Diet Solution was published. It claims you’ll lose weight by slashing calories, sodium, fat, sugar, and protein, while cleansing and detoxifying your body. That is a win win win for me. Of course the plan has restrictions and includes fresh fruits and vegetables among other things as well as exercise. To read the entire article you can go to WebMD and look up The Rice Diet. This being said and noted 😉 there are low-carb diets out there which can promote weight loss and improve health for many people. However, this may not apply to everyone. My motto will continue to be “Everything in moderation.” Now that I got that out of the way let’s talk about…

How to make risotto

There are tons of recipes out there for risotto and I’ll be sharing all my creations with you because essentially it is rice which is basically a blank canvas that you can pair with just about anything, it’s fairly easy to make and it can be a meal on its own. The process for making risotto is a labor of love but if you have 20 minutes to dedicate, I promise it’s well worth the time and effort. The base for all risottos is rice and stock. There are four basic steps.

  • The first is to heat up the stock to a simmer. This is really important as when you ladle small amounts into the risotto as it cooks you want the temperature to remain constant. I use homemade stock for this recipe, but if you don’t have any a good quality, low sodium stock will be good too.
  • Next you melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pot or a dutch oven. By the way, in all of my recipes whenever you see butter as an ingredient ( in case I forget to tell you later) I always use unsalted butter. If the risotto recipe calls for onions or another ingredient that needs to be sauteed, as this one does, you’ll want to do that at this point before adding the rice. Otherwise, stir in the rice making sure all the grains are coated in the butter (about a minute or two). If the recipe calls for wine, which most do, you’ll add that and cook for about two minutes. This will allow the alcohol to cook off. A rule of thumb for all recipes with wine, I only use wine that I will actually drink myself. This is so important for the final flavor of the dish. Besides most recipes only call for a small amount which leaves the rest for me to drink 🙂 If you prefer to leave it out all together, you can (it just won’t taste as good).
  • Reduce the heat. While stirring with a wooden spoon, begin to ladle in the stock. For the first time, add 2 ladles full . Allow the rice to cook (don’t touch it) for about 5 minutes. Keep an eye on in to make sure it doesn’t dry up completely. Ladle about 1/2 cup or one ladle at a time, all the while stirring gently in between. Each time, cook until you see the liquid has been mostly absorbed, before adding more. You’ll continue this process for about 20-25 minutes until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente. You’ll know its done when the risotto looks creamy and thick from absorbing the stock. It should not be dry at all.
  • Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese and any fresh herbs the recipe calls for. You’re done!

It’s as easy as that.

Dried Procini Mushrooms, Diced Pancetta, Arborio Rice

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1/2 lb. fresh baby bella mushrooms
  • 5 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 8 tbsp. unsalted butter( 1 stick)
  • 4 ounces diced pancetta
  • 1 cup finely diced yellow onion
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 dry white wine
  • 1 tsp. saffron threads
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, preferably freshly grated

Directions

Sauted onions, pancetta and mushrooms
Stir in the stock mix a ladle at a time and stir every few minutes
  1. Place the dried procini mushrooms into a bowl with 2 cups of really hot water. Set it aside for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, remove the stems of the baby bella and chop them. Wipe the caps with a damp paper towel to remove any dirt. Slice them and set these aside.
  2. Scoop out the porcini mushrooms, pour the liquid through a strainer and into another bowl. Chop the porcini in half and remove any stems. Set the mushrooms and liquid aside separately.
  3. In a saucepan, heat up the stock and the mushroom liquid to a simmer.
  4. In a heavy bottomed pot, melt the butter. Saute the onions and pancetta for about 5-8 minutes until the pancetta begins to brown a bit and the onions are translucent. Add the porcinis and baby bellas and saute for another 5 minutes.
  5. Add the rice and stir to coat all the grains. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes.
  6. Stir in 2 ladles full of the stock mix, saffron, salt and pepper. Simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes until most of the stock is absorbed. Continue to add the stock mix 1 ladle at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, wait until most of the stock had been absorbed before adding more.
  7. Continue this process until the rice is cooked through and there is a ladle of stock left, about 20-25 minutes. The risotto should be creamy and thick from absorbing all yummy stock and not dry at all.
  8. Remove from the heat and stir in the final ladle of stock and the Parmesan.
  9. Serve right away and don’t forget to sprinkle some extra Parmesan.
  10. Enjoy!
Best for a comfort food craving and to add to a fall menu
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Mushroom Saffron Risotto

Creamy dreamy risotto with mushrooms and saffron

  • Author: Jennifer
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Main Course
  • Cuisine: Italian
Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 oz dried procini mushrooms
  • 1 lb fresh baby bella mushrooms
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups liquid from mushrooms
  • 4 oz diced pancetta
  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup yellow onion (finely diced)
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tsp saffron threads
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese (freshly grated)

Instructions

  1. Place the dried procini mushrooms into a bowl with 2 cups of really hot water. Set it aside for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, remove the stems of the baby bella and wipe the caps with a damp paper towel to remove any dirt. Slice them and set aside.
  2. Scoop out the porcini mushrooms, pour the liquid through a strainer and into another bowl. Set the mushrooms and liquid aside separately.
  3. In a saucepan, heat up the stock and the mushroom liquid to a simmer.
  4. In a heavy bottomed pot, melt the butter. Saute the onions and pancetta for about 5-8 minutes until the pancetta begins to brown a bit and the onions are translucent. Add the porcinis and baby bellas and saute for another 5 minutes.
  5. Add the rice and stir to coat all the grains. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes.
  6. Stir in 2 ladles full of the stock mix, saffron, salt and pepper. Simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes until most of the stock is absorbed. Continue to add the stock mix 1 ladle at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, wait until most of the stock had been absorbed before adding more.
  7. Continue this process until the rice is cooked through and there is a ladle of stock left, about 20-25 minutes. The risotto should be creamy and thick from absorbing all yummy stock and not dry at all.
  8. Remove from the heat and stir in the final ladle of stock and the Parmesan.
  9. Enjoy!

Notes

*You can omit the wine, if you prefer.

*To make this a vegetarian dish, you can leave out the pancetta.

*Serve hot and don’t forget to sprinkle some extra Parmesan cheese on top before serving.