Wednesday, February 8, 2012
If you ask me which part of my childhood I remember most, the first thing that comes to my mind are the numerous weekends that my parents took my brother and me out to eat. To us, an exceptional weekend meant getting in my father's car, neatly dressed in our Sunday's best clothes, and drive all the way without looking back, hiding from the heat of the South of Tenerife to take refuge, at least once a month, in the colder, fresher temperatures of the North. Our destination was a small, rural town called Tacoronte, where my father knew a local Canarian family who converted their garage into a huge restaurant to serve anybody, who like us, was looking for authentic homemade Canarian cuisine.
As soon as you entered the gigantic, grey painted metallic garage doors, visitors were welcomed by the patriarch, whose main job was to attend the bar. I remember my father asking for a quart of local red wine while we waited for a table. The wine, came from the owners who had a small winery, conveniently located at the back patio of the restaurant. They harvested every year. Curiously, it was served in small pepsi bottles, and I somehow could not understand why I wasn't allowed to have some pepsi too!
Further inside the restaurant, a small blackboard showed the clientele that Sunday's menu, which was never the same as the previous Sunday. It all depended on the freshness of that week's available product. As I recall today, the only dish which you could count on week after week, was "Bacalao Encebollado", or salted codfish in a rich sauté onion sauce.
Growing up, I learned to appreciate the richness of the fish, the distinctive flavor of that particular Canarian sauce, accompanied by the starchy flavor of "papas arrugadas." To me, it is a match made in heaven.
I found out, later on, that the restaurant was passed on to the couple's son and daughter in law. The last time I visited, I ordered, surprisingly!, the Bacalao encebollado. And to my dismay, it didn´t taste as I remembered. Relentlessly, I searched my culinary memory file to find the exact codfish recipe that reminisce from my childhood.
Today, I want to share my recipe with you all. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do eveytime I cook it to my family.
4 unsalted cod fish filets
1 small ripe tomato, cubed
5 cloves of garlic roughly chopped
1 medium red pepper
1 medium green pepper
1/3 cup of chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup of chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 bay leave
1/2 teaspoon of Spanish paprika
A dash of thyme
1/8 of a teaspoon of ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of white wine
1 cup of water
Whenever possible, I recommend that you buy unsalted, frozen cod fish for this recipe. However, if you buy salted cod fish, it needs to sit in a container filled with water for 24 hours before cooking; and you should change the water, at least once, to get rid of the excess of salt in the fish.
Slice the onion thinly, and sauté in olive oil in a shallow pan until it becomes almost transparent. Add the chopped garlic, the sliced peppers, and stir. Cook for about 5 minutes, and then add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, thyme, parsley, cilantro, the bay leave, cumin, and the paprika. (This is what Spanish cuisine usually refers as a "sofrito". And most of the time is typically the base for many sauces) Stir and let cook for another 5 to 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, wash the codfish and pat dry with a paper towel.
Arrange the codfish around the pan with all the "sofrito"; pour the white wine and the water. Stir carefully and cover to cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes. The cooking time depends on how thick the codfish is. I suggest checking the fish after 10 minutes for doneness.
I like to eat my Canarian style cod fish with Canarian potatoes, called here "papas arrugadas," which has a funny translation: wrinkled potatoes (check the recipe in my blog,); or enjoy this sublime fish simply with plain white rice.
It is not a complicated meal, but full of hearty flavor that it is reminiscent of my childhood. Que aproveche!