Written by Linda Sarris Photos by Luisa Misseri
Baccalà is used for typical winter dishes served at Christmastime in Italy. The salted codfish is dried for preservation but needs to be soaked for several days before it becomes edible. Peperoni cruschi are dried sweet red peppers typical in the region of Basilicata. They are served fried as chip snacks or used in cooking. Here we will be steeping them in warm water before using them in a roasted salt cod dish. Once the fish is prepped, this dish is quite simple.
Notes from the Chef:
The most important step for preparing baccalà is to soak it to remove the extra salt. Start by soaking the cod in cold water for at least 8 hours in the refrigerator. After this step, change the water and soak again with fresh water for another 8 hours. Some people recommend doing it at least three times, and this process can take a day or two to make sure you get the cod to the right stage before it becomes edible as a main course. Be careful when seasoning this dish with additional sea salt; it might only need a pinch here or there.
Peperoni cruschi might be hard to find, but you can order them online through Eataly. A sweet roasted red pepper or even sun-dried tomatoes could be used as a substitute if you can’t get your hands on the real thing.
1.5 lb. baccalà, soaked and rinsed to remove salt
Six peperoni cruschi (about 2 ounces), seeds removed
extra virgin olive oil
Four sprigs of fresh parsley
Soak the dried salted cod used in this dish in water to remove the additional salt before steaming it and then roast. Follow the instructions in the Chef’s notes above.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F. Place the pieces of baccalà in a baking paper-lined deep roasting pan. Pour about one cup of boiling water into the pan and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Place the pan in the oven to steam for about 10-minutes, then remove and drain off the water and discard.
In the meantime, remove the seeds from the peppers and chop them into bite-sized pieces. Steep the peppers in warm water to rehydrate and soften them. Nestle the pieces of baccalà back into the baking pan and top with the peppers, parsley, a sprinkle of sea salt, black pepper, and a heavy-handed drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Return the pan to the oven uncovered and roast for another 12 minutes until the top browns a bit, and the fish is cooked all the way through.
Regional Recipe of Basilicata