Tom Gilbert's Bacalao A La Mexicana

June 13, 2016

Because it uses very thick pieces of salt cod, this dish can be extremely salty. I used to try to moderate the saltiness by soaking the salt cod for an extra few days, but over the years I have grown to enjoy it with an aggressive salty bite. Feel free to turn up the heat as well by adding hot peppers or hot pepper sauce to the salsa verde. This recipe is adapted from Uncommon Fruits and Vegetables: A Commonsense Guide by Elizabeth Schneider (William Morrow Cookbooks, 2010).

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Salsa Verde (Tomatillo Sauce)
  • 1 pound fresh tomatillos
  • 2 or 3 ancho or other dried Mexican chilies (not chipotles)
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1 bunch thoroughly rinsed cilantro roots and stems, chopped
  • 1 bunch cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 1/2 cups salsa verde
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil or more as needed for sautéing
  • 2 large Spanish onions, sliced
  • Flour for dredging
  • 1 pound desalted salt cod, cut into pieces approximately 4-inches square
  • 4 cups cooked rice
  • Salt

For salsa verde, peel and discard papery covering from tomatillos. Rinse tomatillos well under running warm water to clean and remove sticky coating.

Boil 1 cup of water in a pot or saucepan. Clean dried chilies, discarding seeds and stems, and add them to hot water. Remove from heat and let stand for 15 to 30 minutes.

Puncture the tomatillos once or twice with a sharp fork and add to pot, along with garlic, tomato paste and chopped cilantro roots and stems. Cover and cook over low heat until tomatillos can be easily crushed. Allow sauce to cool. Add cilantro leaves and lime juice. Puree all ingredients in a blender or food processor.

For bacalao, heat oil in a pan or skillet over low heat. Add onions and sauté slowly, stirring frequently, until onions are translucent and turning a light golden color. Remove onions to a casserole or baking dish, spreading them to cover the bottom.

Dredge cod lightly in flour. Turn heat under skillet to medium, and brown cod thoroughly on both sides in the onion-flavored oil. Remove cod and arrange in casserole on top of cooked onions.

Reheat tomatillo sauce in skillet, scraping up remaining bits of flour, oil and juices. Pour sauce into casserole over cod and onions. Bake uncovered in 375-degree oven for 30 minutes. Taste and correct for salt. Serve over rice.

Source: NPR Kitchen Window

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