Recipe Thursday: Rock Bottom Bacalao – Salt Cod Stew with Potatoes, Chorizo, & Aioli

I love Salt Cod – spending some teenage years in New Jersey I was marvelously introduced to many kinds of food (unlike my simple food childhood which was working-folk and hunter-folk based) – lots of Italian, Jewish, Thai, Haitian, all kinds of Indian, regional (think Taylor Ham/aka porkroll, subs, stromboli, funnel cake), Portuguese, and Puerto Rican (likely others but these stand out for me). My Mom became particularly adept at making dishes and ingredients from the latter – sofrito, pasteles, empanadas, tostones, sopa de fideo, and bacalao…so many yummy things. After she moved away from jersey sourcing some of her favorite ingredients became harder but since she still works from NJ (but at home from wherever she is) – and has to visit the home base every now and again, she is able to get some goods when she is there.

Sometimes she brings back Portuguese rolls (there’s nothing like them here), culantro, chorizo, porkroll, and salt cod though I tried to get her to snag me some Zeppole while she was down there this time (to no avail) – most of those things she brought back and shared with us recently. So, I decided to make them all pretty much into one delicious dish – a spicy and sassy Bacalao. This term really just designates it as a Salt Cod stew – Nordic areas have a tradition of this, Portugal, Brazil, Puerto Rico and likely everywhere in between. This is Maine-by-way-of-NJ Bacalao with our own Rock Bottom flair (but not 15 pieces of flair – we would never require so many…just a bit…).

Think garden in September, with some magickal Salt Cod and Chorizo, and Stone Broke Bread – sounds like a hearty picnic in the waning light.

Rock Bottom Bacalao
Serves 4-6

1 lb Salt Cod, rinsed then soaked in milk (or water) overnight, rinsed again, sliced
1/2 lb Chorizo (any kind, though I am using Portuguese), sliced (if not ground)
1/2 cup Olive Oil
2 Garlic cloves, sliced thinly
1 Large Vidalia or other sweet onion (10 shallots?), sliced thinly
1 Red Bell Pepper, sliced thinly lengthwise
3-4 lb ripe Tomatoes (heirloom are great, but 2-28 oz Fire Roasted can are good, too), chopped coarsely
16 small waxy potatoes (not floury) or 10 medium-sized, either boiled for 20 min whole and then added to sauce for 30 min or proceed with recipe as is, cut in half or 2″ pieces
5 oz fancy Olives like Kalamata or Green (pitted or not, up to you, just be careful if not)
A handful of Flat-leaf Parsley or Cilantro (or a mix), stems removed, leaves chopped (I put mine in a cup and chop them with scissors)
Fresh Ground Black Pepper, to taste
Aioli to serve, optional (see Note)

Add the Olive Oil to a wide frying pan, add sliced Chorizo and gently fry until browned on both sides or if ground, until just browned then add Garlic and fry for 2 minutes.

Add Onion and saute for 5 minutes with the Chorizo and Garlic, shaking the pan from time to time. Then add Red Pepper strips and cook until slightly softened.

Add the tomatoes and boil gently with the lid on.

Add Potatoes to the pan and continue boiling for 1 hour (if not pre-boiled, if pre-boiled cut this time by half), still with the lid on. Make sure the potatoes are covered in sauce.

When the Potatoes are almost done, add the sliced Cod. It is better to add the fish later, than sooner. Continue boiling gently for about 15 to 20 minutes.

When 5 minutes remain, add the Olives.

Add Freshly Ground Black Pepper and scatter chopped Parsley (&/or Cilantro). Serve with crusty Bread and Aioli! (This is even better the day after, if there are any leftovers!)

Garlic Aioli
Adapted from the Joy of Cooking

1 Garlic clove
pinch of Sea Salt
2 Large Egg Yolks
1/2 cup Grapeseed Oil (or Avocado Oil)
1/2 cup Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Lemon Juice (or to taste)

Crush the garlic finely with the salt. I like to do this with the flat end of a large knife so that it forms a paste.

Add the crushed garlic to the egg yolks in a medium sized bowl and whisk by hand until thick. You can also do this in a stand mixer or small processor.

Slowly drizzle in the oil while whisking vigorously until the mixture thickens.

Finally add in the lemon juice and whisk thoroughly, adding more to taste.

Published by Rachael M Rollson

creative life-learner

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