In the La Mancha region, cod al ajo arriero—or mule driver’s style—refers to a bacalao and potato puree not dissimilar to the French brandade. In the Basque Country, ajo arriero is prepared with flaked cod that’s slowly sautéed with onion, tomato, and peppers. It’s often spread on bread as one of the region’s favorite pintxos (tapas). At home, I mound it on bread or serve it as a chunky spread. Spooned on toast and topped with a poached egg, the hash also makes an excellent breakfast or brunch. This is one case where salt cod shouldn’t be replaced by fresh, as the dish needs that nice pungent kick. Start at least a day ahead to give the bacalao a chance to soak.
- Yield: 6 Servings TO 8 AS A TAPA
- 6 ounces salt cod, soaked and cooked, then drained
- 3 tablespoons fragrant extra-virgin olive oil, or more if needed
- 1 medium-size onion, finely chopped
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- ½ large green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
- 6 to 7 piquillo peppers (from a can or jar), or 3 large pimientos, cut into strips
- 2 medium-size Yukon Gold potatoes (about 6 ounces each), peeled, boiled, drained, and diced
- ½ teaspoon sweet (not smoked) paprika
- ¼ cup tomato sauce
- ½ teaspoon white wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
- Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
- Sliced crusty baguette, for serving
- Flake the salt cod finely, discarding the bones, skin, and any tough bits.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the green pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion and pepper are very soft, about 10 minutes, reducing the heat so they don’t brown. If the skillet looks dry, add a little more olive oil, then stir in the flaked salt cod, piquillo peppers, and potatoes. Stir to mix well, then cover the skillet and cook for 5 minutes, stirring once or twice.
- Add the paprika and stir for a few seconds. Stir in the tomato sauce, reduce the heat to very low, re-cover the skillet, and simmer until all the flavors are melded, 8 to 10 minutes. The cod hash should be nicely moist; if it isn’t, add a little water and simmer for a few minutes longer. Stir in the vinegar and salt and black pepper to taste. Let the hash cool to warm or room temperature (the flavors will meld and develop further as it sits). Stir in the parsley and serve on or with bread.