Bacalao a la Vizcaína

Bacalao a la Vizcaína, or Biscayan Cod, is a dish of the Basque region of Spain. Basically, it is steamed salt cod fillets with a tomato “Vizcaína” sauce poured on top of it. In the Caribbean, in Cuba and Puerto Rico, it is prepared a few ways. The fillets can be pulverized into a paste and then served in the sauce atop rice. The dish can be served using fresh cod and baked or pan fried. In any case, the result is a tangy, flavor-infused dish.

In my research for this meal, I perused so many recipes: traditional, those using fresh fish, to capers or not – you name it! In the end, I decided the best place to look was my memory and that of my father’s for my Mima’s recipe. She never wrote anything down, but he gave me a couple tips as II fought to remember the flavors.

The result of my two-day brainstorm and recipe writing was a layered, baked casserole meal. It’s like a casserole meets a stew, to be more specific. The light tomato sauce and briny flavor of olive and capers makes a great marinade and sauce for the fish and potatoes. Unlike many of my recipes, there are very few changes or variations I’d make to this dish in the future. The only amendment I would consider would be to make the dish the night before, let it sit, and then reheat it throughly the following day.

I suggest serving the bacalao with plain side dishes. In this case, it was served atop of a bed of white rice, and accompanied by a romaine salad dressed with white vinegar and good olive oil, as well as slices of a toasted whole wheat baguette drizzled with olive oil. You want the cod to stand out, and it deserves its 15 minutes of fame.

Bacalao a la Vizcaína
2 fillets of cod (unsalted), and thawed if frozen
1 large yellow onion, sliced
3-4 large red potatoes, peeled and sliced into ¼ inch, round pieces
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 roasted red peppers, chopped
2 small Roma tomatoes, sliced
½ cup white wine
Approx. 6oz canned tomato sauce
5-6 pimento-stuffed olives, sliced
1 tsp capers
1 tsp each caper and olive juice
1 tsp oregano
½ tsp cumin
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp salt
5 tsp olive oil

Heat a large skillet, and add 3 tsp olive oil. To heated oil, add onions and saute until almost soft. Then, add garlic and roasted red peppers. Cook on medium heat, stirring frequently for approximately one minute. Then, add herbs, salt, white wine vinegar, and tomato sauce. Bring to a light boil and add capers, olives, and their juices. Simmer on low heat for about 5 minutes, then remove from heat.

Line bottom of casserole dish with sliced potatoes and drizzle with 2 tsp olive oil. Pour half of sauce onto potatoes, and top with half of the sliced tomatoes. Place the raw cod fillets side by side atop the tomatoes. Cover cod with other half of sauce and top with the rest of the fresh tomatoes. Cook in preheated oven at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes, or until cod is white and flakes with your fork.

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