Probably due to the relatively large Italian population living in Basel, we can find quite a lot of Italian ingredients here. I have come across the Baccalà (salt cod) from time to time in Manor Supermarket but I had no idea how to prepare and eat them until my last Summer holiday in Tuscany, I learnt it from Peter and Ann.
To buy, try to choose a piece that is thicker as the thicker the fish fillet, the easier it is to cook and nicer in presentation after cooking.
To prepare baccalà, you need to plan a few days ahead, depends the quality and saltiness of your baccalà. You need to soak the baccalà in a large container that is enough to lay the baccalà inside and deep enough for it to submerge fully in fresh cold water. You will need 2-3 days to hydrate the baccala completely. Change the water 3 times a day, when the baccalà is soft enough, you can peel off the skin and remove the bones using a clipper accordingly. This soaking process can be kept at room temperature, there is no refrigeration in the old days, remember? Continue to soak in water until the saltiness is gone. You can test this by breaking off a small piece to taste the saltiness. If it is ready, the soaking water should be clear and the fish would not taste salty at all. I could peel off the skin on day 1 already and I think the earlier you remove the skin, this can shorten the soaking time and make the water smells fishy.
For the baccalà:
- 700g baccalà (salt cod)
- 1 cup corn flour
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 1/2 cup paniermehl (breadcrumbs) The Swiss breadcrumbs seem to be finer and a little salty compared to the Japanese Panko
For the sauce:
- 1 cup of chopped onion, in pieces
- 1 1/2 tbsp salt-packed capers
- 1 can (400g) pomodoro tomatoes
- 100 ml white wine
- 1/2 tbsp aceto balsamico
- 1 tsp dried red chili flakes
- 1 1/2 sugar
- handful of fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
- handful of fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
- extra virgin olive oil
- Prepare in advance: 2-3 days before, hydrate the baccalà as described above.
- On the day of cooking, discard the water from the baccalà and wipe dry with kitchen paper. Remove the bones if still find any. Cut the baccalà into pieces about 4cm x 4cm and set aside.
- Soak the salted caper in a bowl of water for about 30 minutes to 1 hour, drain before use.
- Heat some olive oil in a large pan, add in the onion pieces and stir fry until they become translucent.
- Add in the tomatoes, press the tomatoes into small pieces if necessary, when it is bubbling, pour in the white wine, stir to mix, let it cook for a minute or so
- Then add in the drained capers, balsamico vinegar, sugar and chili flakes. Turn to medium heat and let it simmer for about 10 minutes or until the sauce get thickened.
- In the meantime, dust the baccalà with corn starch, then dip into the beatened egg and finally coat with breadcrumbs. Repeat for all baccalà.
- Heat enough olive oil in a frying pan and fry the breaded baccalà until golden yellow on both sides. When done absorb excess oil from the fried breaded baccalà.
- Heat up the tomato sauce again and add the parley and mint leaves to the sauce, place the fried baccalà into the sauce, gently turn over the baccalà if needed, so the whole piece is coated with sauce, let them simmer for 10-15 mins at medium high heat. Do not stir too much once the baccalà is in the sauce.
- Turn off the heat, this dish can be served warm or at room temperature. Feel free to use it as an appetizer or as main course with salad and bread or pasta.
You can also use this tomato sauce use to coat thinly pounded breaded pork cutlet-Schnitzel which we have tried in a very nice family run restaurant recommended by Ann: Trattoria Il Mercato, Buggiano, Tuscany. And the chef is an Italian woman, she is amazing!
Top right: Pork Schnitzel in tomato & capers sauce; Lower: Antipasti-crostini & panzanella (Tuscan bread salad)
My previous posts on Tuscan cooking and travel:
- Part 1: Garfagnana & Tuscan risotto recipe
- Part 2: Pescia, cooking with Peter & Ann and Baked zucchini blossoms recipe
- Part 3: Lucca & Stracchino & sausage crostini
Some snapshots from Vinci, our last Summer holiday:
Leonardo da Vinci’s Birthplace
Church were Leonardo da Vinci was baptised.
Top: inside the church; Lower Left: Vinci surrounding; Lower Right: Taken inside Vinci Museum