The Basques were excellent fishermen and learned about the process of salting and drying cod from northern European cultures. They adopted the salt cod into their cuisine with vigor.
- Yield: 12 portions (approximately 8–9 ounces/portion)
For Poaching the Salt Cod
- 2 lbs Salt Cod, soaked in water changed several times over a 2-day period
- 8 oz Yellow Onion, sliced
- 4 oz Celery, diced small
- ¼ bunch Parsley Stems
- 2 qts Water
For Simmering the Potatoes and Leeks
- 2 oz Olive Oil
- 1 lb Leek Whites, cleaned and sliced thin
- 0.5 oz Garlic Cloves, minced
- 3 lbs Russet Potatoes, peeled and sliced ½ inch thick Broth from Poaching Salt Cod (remove 1 cup first and set aside for sauce)
- 2 Bay Leaves
- ¼ tsp Freshly Ground Pepper
- Salt cod
For Making the Viscaina Sauce and Bacalao a al Viscaina
- 6 oz Salt Pork , diced small
- 8 oz Yellow Onions, sliced thin
- 4 oz Leek Whites, cleaned and sliced thin
- 0.5 oz Garlic Cloves
- 2 Tbsp Spanish Paprika
- 1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
- 3 Eggs Yolks, hard-boiled
- 1 cup Reserved Broth from Poached Salt Cod
- ¼ cup Parsley Leaves
- 4 oz Extra Virgin Olive Oil
How to Make It
For Poaching the Salt Cod
- Be sure to have soaked the salt cod for a minimum of 1 day (2 days is even better), changing the water 3–4 times; otherwise, it will be too salty.
- Place the drained salt cod (cut into smaller pieces, if necessary), onion, celery, parsley stems, and water in a pot; bring to a simmer and then reduce to a gentle poach.
- Poach for 15–20 minutes or until cod becomes flaky, and then remove the cod from the broth. Strain the broth through a china cap or cheesecloth to remove onions, stems, and celery, and set the broth aside (it will be used in the next steps).
- Carefully trim away any pieces of lining on the surface of the cod, and remove any bones from the fillets (depending on what section of the fish your fillet came from, this may be easier or more difficult); try to keep the fillet pieces as whole as possible. For Simmering the Potatoes and Leeks
- In a pan large enough to hold the potatoes, leeks, and salt cod, heat the olive oil over a medium-low flame; once hot, add the onions and garlic, and sweat until they are translucent and tender.
- Add sliced potatoes, broth from salt cod (with 1 cup removed), bay leaves, and black pepper; turn the heat up to bring the mixture to a simmer, and simmer mixture until potatoes are just tender.
- Add the salt cod to the mixture, and turn off the heat.
- Remove the bay leaves. For Making the Viscaina Sauce
- In a medium or large sauté pan, render the salt pork over a low flame until all of the fat has been melted out (this will take approximately 20 minutes; this step can be done during or before cooking the potatoes and leeks).
- Once rendered, add the yellow onions, leeks, and garlic to the pan; sweat over a medium-low flame until all of the onions and leeks are very tender (control the heat so that you don't caramelize them).
- Add the paprika and cayenne pepper; continue to cook for 5 more minutes.
- Transfer this mixture to a blender, and add the egg yolks, reserved cup of broth, and parsley. Blend the mixture to a smooth consistency; with the blender running slowly, pour in olive oil to make an emulsified sauce.
- Adjust seasoning of sauce with salt and pepper (if sauce is too thick, add water to dilute).
- Serve the salt cod pieces with potatoes and leeks, and top with the sauce.