Salted cod stew is a traditional Greek, easy fish stew from the Ionian islands. Made with Bacalao fish, it's a creamy fish stew with potatoes, lemon, plenty of garlic, and lots of extra virgin olive oil.
Bacalao is one of the best fish for fish stew. It's very tasty and due to its fat content thickens the stew (or a fish soup) beautifully.
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What Is Bacalao?
Wondering what fish is Bacalao? Bacalao is the Spanish word for salt cod fish. In Greece, we call it Bakaliaros. You may also know it as saltfish.
Bacalao is cod that's salted and dried, mostly fished in Norway but in other areas too, like Iceland and the Faroe Islands. You can find it with bone-in or like a fillet without its main bone. The fish is sold with its skin but headless.
This recipe for salted cod fish uses bone-in Bacalao. Because the bone helps the meat to not fall apart while it simmers.
Cooking Salted Cod - Bacalao
First things first, if the fish needs cutting, cut it into portions (if you didn't buy it cut). The size of each piece should be about 8-10 cm. Also, use scissors to cut the fins.
To cook salt cod you need to soak it in water one day before consuming it, in order to reduce its salinity. To do this, first, rinse the fish with cold water to remove all salt from the fish. Then add to a very large pot or bucket and fill with plenty of cold water. For every kilogram (2.2 pounds) of codfish add 5 liters of water.
Allow the fish to soak for 24 hours. Changing the soaking water with fresh water a total of 7-8 times.
Then you need to scrape the skin with a butter knife (a fork or fish scaler is too harsh in this case) to remove the scales. Rinse well and the fish is ready to go into the pot.
Cook the fish for as long as the recipe instructs. Fish unlike meat, the longer it cooks the chewier and drier it becomes so stick to cooking times.
How To Make Salted Cod With Potatoes
To make this easy cod stew all you need to do is to add everything into a cooking pot and turn the heat on! First, you lay the potatoes at the bottom so the fish sits on the potatoes and doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot. Second, you toss in the finely chopped onions and the chopped garlic cloves.
Lastly, you add the fish on top, pour in the olive oil and some water. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to moderate and cook until thickened. Finish off by adding the lemon juice 5 minutes before taking it off the heat.
DO NOT SEASON WITH SALT. The salinity of the fish itself is enough to season all of the stew.
Thickening Codfish Stew
This salt cod stew becomes very creamy and thick. Which is actually the best part of it. That thick sauce that's lemony-sour full of sweet melted garlic. You can thicken it as much as you like. You can even let it be more soupy or even mash the potatoes and serve a creamy velvety soup with a big piece of cod on it.
What Thickens Cod Stew? It's the starch from potatoes, the fat of the fish, the extra virgin olive oil, and the onions. For best results, you should ideally use:
- Starchy potatoes such as Russets or Yukon Gold.
- Extra virgin olive oil. If it's not extra virgin cold extracted it won't thicken the stew (more on olive oil you can read in this article).
How To Thicken The Stew:
Cook the stew over medium to medium-high heat (depending on how strong is your stovetop). If it's a gass stovetop stick to the lower temperature.
The lid on the cooking pot should be a bit open on the side so water can evaporate and escape the pot in order for the sauce to thicken.
Raise the heat towards the end if necessary. If there's still too much water in the pot towards the end of cooking time raise the heat to high for a few minutes. It doesn't take long to thicken.
Allow to sit for 15 minutes or more. The more the food sits inside the warm cooking pot the more it thickens.
What Does It Taste Like?
Stewed codfish with potatoes has a strong fish flavor. So if you're not into fish so much you might not like it. Since this is a fish stew recipe without tomatoes the fish flavor rules the dish. Of course, it's not the only flavor in this stew. What makes the flavor of this dish so good is the lemon and garlic. There are lots of both in this cod stew recipe so the flavors are pretty strong.
Here's a recipe for fish stew with vegetables and tomatoes. All made from scratch using fresh fish.
It's almost a must to serve bread with this stew. I mean the sauce is so so good it deserves it! And also freshly ground pepper is a must topping.
Salted Cod Fish Stew With Potatoes
- 1 kilograms (2.2 pounds) salted codfish
- 1 kilograms (2.2 pounds) potatoes such as Russets or Yukon Gold peeled and cut into 6 cm (2 ½-inch) pieces
- 260 grams (1 medium-sized) onion finely chopped
- 7-8 garlic cloves chopped
- 140 grams (⅔ cup) extra virgin olive oil
- freshly ground pepper
- 60 grams (¼ cup) fresh lemon juice
Prepare The Fish:
- Cut the fish into portions if it isn't already cut. The pieces should be about 8-10 cm (3 ½ to 4-inch) in size.
- Rinse the fish under cold water to remove the salt.
- Add the cod to a large cooking pot or bucket and fill with 5 liters of water.
- Soak the codfish for 24 hours. Changing the soaking water with fresh one 7-8 times in total.
- Scrape the fish skin with a butter knife to remove the scales. Rinse well.
Make The Cod Stew:
- Cover the bottom of a cooking pot with the potatoes.
- Add in the onions and garlic.
- Lay the fish on top of the potatoes (see note 1 below).
- Pour in the olive oil and 3 ½ cups (875 ml) of water (see note 2 below). Season with freshly ground pepper only, NO SALT.
- Bring to a boil and then drop the heat to medium, medium-high leaving the lid on the pot a bit open on one side for steam to escape. (see note 3 below)
- Cook for 40 to 50 minutes. Add the lemon juice 5 minutes before you take the pot off the heat.
- Remove from the heat and allow to sit for 15 minutes (again partly covered).
- Serve and enjoy with extra freshly ground pepper on top and lots of bread for dipping.