Bacalao al Pil Pil

Although Bacalao al Pil-Pil is classic Basque food in almost every grocer and market I visited while cycle touring in North West Spain last week there were sides of salt cod waiting by the scales on the counter. Once a staple of the poor in Spain and many other European countries and The United States and Canada. These days due to overfishing cod stocks are at an all-time low and bacalao is now a delicacy. 

While cycling from town to town in Spain I was luck enough to be accompanied by Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World by Mark Kurlansky. This gem of a book tells the tale of a fish that has probably mattered more in human history than any other. The cod helped inspire the discovery and exploration of North America. It had a profound impact upon the economic development of New England and eastern Canada but today, however, overfishing is a constant threat. 

The Spanish love there bacaloa and the Basque people were some of the earliest fishermen brave enough to take on the waters of the Atlantic to reel in this prized fish. Reading it in Spain was a complete joy and here is a recipe I enjoyed while staying in Santander.

  • 4 pieces of bacalao/salted codfish  
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced.
  • a glass of good olive oil


1. Soak the fish in water for 24 hours. Draining the water after 12 hours and replacing with fresh water. Remove from the water and dry the fish with a tea towel.

2. On a low heat sweat the garlic for three or four minutes in a shallow clay casserole. A deep frying pan will do.

3. Place codfish with the skin down in the oil. Cod is a gentle meat so instead of stirring rock the casserole gently with a slight swing in circular moves so the codfish releases its gelatin into the oil.

 4. Getting a the mixture of the gelatin of the codfish with the olive oil is the secret of this dish the sauce should become a smooth white sauce.

5. Serve with boiled potatoes and garnish with fresh parsley.

Cod fish

This entry was posted on Thursday, April 23rd, 2009 at 17:05 and is filed under Spanish Recipes. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed or trackback from your own site. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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