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How to Use Salt Cod (Bacalao)

Know Your Ingredients: Salt Cod

Perhaps it's due to the sheer number of Italian, French, and Spanish restaurants in San Francisco, but lately, I've been spotting salt cod on menus everywhere. Salt cod was found to be a well-preserving ingredient more than 500 years ago, and it long held a place in Western European cuisines, largely due to the region's need for sustenance during Catholic days on which meat is verboten. The fish is known as bacalao in Spain, where it's baked with potatoes; bacalhau in Portugal and Brazil, where it's pulverized into a popular fritter; baccalà among Italians, who simmer it in milk; and morue in France, where it's known to be whipped with potatoes as a brandade.

Traditionally, salt cod was produced by cleaning and beheading fresh cod, often adding salt as a desiccant, then laying the fish out on rocks to dry. Due to overfishing, the ingredient is no longer made exclusively from cod, and may be made with other whitefish, such as pollock, ling, and haddock. It's sold whole or in portions, either with bones or deboned, and must be rehydrated before use. This is achieved by soaking in cold water for 12 to 36 hours, then boiling in water or milk until flaky. Are you a fan of dishes with salt cod?

Source: Flickr User snowpea&bokchoi

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