NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

January 2, 2013

A salted fish produces a very savory dinner

If ever a food needed a brand overhaul, it is salt cod.

Because nothing about that name inspires cravings. It actually sounds like something you spread on an icy walkway to keep people from slipping. But salt cod actually has a rich history, especially in Portuguese and Spanish cuisines, which treat this simple ingredient with near reverence.

Salt cod is what it sounds like — cod fillets that have been preserved with salt. A lot of salt, in fact. So much so, the salt must be flushed from the fish before eating. This can be done several ways. The most basic is to rinse the cod under cool running water, then submerge it in a bowl of water and refrigerate for 12 hours.

The result is a tender, yet meaty fish that has a pleasantly solid texture (closer to a satisfying steak than to a fillet of fresh cod).

The flavor also is changed — savory and not overtly fishy. Though you will taste the salt, if the cod has been properly rinsed and soaked, it will not be too salty.

Once the cod is soaked, it can be patted dry with paper towels, cut into chunks, then simmered for 10 or so minutes. Your options after that are numerous. The cod often is broken into flakes, then used to make cod fritters, or added to chowder. Larger chunks of cooked salt cod also make a fine curry, as well as a filling for empanadas and pot pies.

Salt cod is widely available in the seafood section of most grocers. It often is sold in small wooden boxes. A 1-pound box will produce 1 1/2 pounds of cod after soaking.

One note about cooking — try not to boil it. It should be cooked at a gentle simmer. Boiling will toughen the fish.

SALT COD WITH ROASTED POTATOES

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