Tag Archives: cod

Puerto Rican Salt Cod Fritters – Bacalaitos

In Puerto Rico cod fritters, or bacalaitos, are a quintessential party food.  Wildly popular, these fritters are even sold at the beach.  Right on the sand are wooden shacks with tin roofs, some with a few tables, some only serving take out.  Typically salsa is blasting at full volume while a stiff ocean breeze tempts bathers with the perfume of garlic and culantro.  If you spy a cook working behind her bubbling pot still in her house coat with pink foam curlers in her hair, hips swaying in tune with the music, I strongly suggest you stop there to eat!  I promise you won’t be disappointed.  When I was growing up in Puerto Rico, summers and holidays, these fritters were not often served.  In those days my family was suspicious of any street food and would have been horrified if we had even asked for a bite.  My grandparents felt anything worth ingesting was just as good or better at home.  And that would have been fine except we never had bacalaitos at home.  Why, I don’t know… because they’re bad for you? (They ARE fried!)  Nevertheless, on outings with uncles, aunts and cousins, we were often rewarded for good behavior at the end of day with a little fried something.

Probably the only photograph with Mama and all my siblings at the beach.  It makes me so happy that Mama had on her pearls to go to the beach!

Big doin’s for me when the treat happened to be cod fritters.  I don’t know why they’re called “fritters” as they’re not the shape of, say, apple fritters or conch fritters… they’re not rounded in shape but flat…like a cookie.  Crispy on the outside but tender and chewy on the inside, these “frituras” were served hot out of the fat and wrapped in a paper napkin.  Sometimes, if we happen to be in a really upscale shack, the fritters were loosely wrapped in a napkin then tucked into a small, brown paper bag.  We tossed the napkins and let the paper bag soak up the excess oil while savoring every salty nugget of bacalao, cod, studded throughout the fritter.  Tanned, barefooted and covered with beach sand is how I like to remember enjoying this street food!

 

 

Puerto Rican Cod Fritters

  • Servings: 25 fritters
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

  • 1 pound salt cod, deboned and soaked in cold water 8-12 hours, changing the water several time to get rid of the salt
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • 10-12 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 bunch culantro (approximately .75 ounces) or 20 leaves, ripped into 2″ pieces
  • 2 3/4 cups broth from the cod.  You’ll be boiling the fish briefly so don’t throw the broth out!
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour plus additional if needed
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • vegetable oil
  1. Discard the water the cod has soaked in and place the fish in a pot covered with 1″ of fresh, cold water.  Bring the water to a boil and cook the fish for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Remove the fish from the broth and set aside to cool.  Reserve the broth for later in the recipe.
  3. While the cod is cooling, add the garlic, peppercorns and culantro to a food processor or blender and process until you almost have a paste.  If the ingredients stick and won’t process, add a tablespoon or two of the fish broth and continue processing.
  4. When the cod is cool enough to handle, gently pull the fish apart with your hands.  You want it chunks in your fritters as opposed to a feathery mess.
  5. In a separate large bowl combine the flour and baking powder.
  6. Mix the broth into the flour by hand.  The batter should be the consistency of pancake batter.  If too thin, add a bit more flour.  If too thin, add a little more broth but, in either case, not too much.
  7. To the flour/broth mixture add the flaked cod and the garlic/culantro mixture and mix well by hand.
  8. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or so to let the baking powder do its job.
  9. In a heavy-bottomed frying pan or pot, pour in vegetable oil until it reaches 1″ on the sides.  Heat the oil on high.
  10. When the oil is hot and “shimmers” spoon 1/4 cup into the pan making 3-4 fritters, depending on the size of your pan.  You don”t want to crowd them.  If the fritters are browning too fast drop the heat down to medium-high.
  11. Fry each fritter 3-4 minutes or until golden, turning only once.
  12. Drain the fritters on a paper bag or paper towels.  If you want to be truly authentic, thread each fritter through the middle with a metal skewer and hang across a large pot allowing the oil to drain to the bottom of the pot.
  13. Serve immediately or keep warm in a very low oven.

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In Jamaica They Call It “Fish Tea”

WOW.  I just made the most outrageous, EASY, and fast, fish soup!!!  I’m trying to cool down with a HUGE ice-cold, crisp Pinot Grigio!!  And, thankfully, it’s working.   It rained a bit today, the temperature dropped a stunning 4 degrees, I’m down for soup.  But I didn’t want some cook-all-day, roiling, thick, stew thing.  So… a gorgeously colored fish soup.  Always light but incredibly savory.  Dad gets a beautiful fish soup just about every Saturday at the Swap Shop, it’s so darned good but so darned expensive.  $12.00 for a cup.  Are you kidding?  Kiss my lily, white ass.  I looked all through my cookbooks for different recipes but they all did the “fish stock” thing.  I didn’t have any made or frozen and I just didn’t want to kill myself making it.  It’s fish soup, dammit, fish soup.  “I’m Gumby, dammit!! Gumby”.  Well, that’s how I felt.  Anyway, I wanted something rich in flavor, but at the same time, light and pretty.  Apparently I wanted it all.  And guess what?  Through hard work and diligence I got it.  I started with a good knob of butter, maybe 2 or 3 tablespoons, and a good splash of olive oil in a medium hot dutch oven/stock pot.  To that I added a HUGE onion that I had finely chopped and when that had cooked to soft and clear I added 7 or 8 finely chopped garlic cloves.  My feeling is, if I don’t have a good seafood stock then I need to unquestionably produce a broth that is strong, luxurious and full-bodied.  And I did.  After the garlic had softened sufficiently, I heightened the flavor by adding three large, peeled and cubed  red-skinned boiling potatoes, two whole scotch bonnet peppers, and a large bunch of fresh cilantro, washed and finely chopped.  We enjoy a lot of heat in our food and although scotch bonnets are small, they DO pack a considerable amount of heat!!  Fair warning!  I also threw in a good measure of salt and freshly ground pepper.  Actually, I added more than I usually would because the potatoes will soak up a lot of the salt, they need it to bring out their own flavor.  I found some saffron and tossed a few threads into the mix.  A little color is ALWAYS good.  I chopped and included another onion to deepen the taste.  And a healthy glass of the grape I was enjoying, my snappy Pinot Grigio.  To the juice of four lemons I added six cups of water and into the pot that went. I brought it up to a good simmer, covered it and walked away.  I had set aside a large bowl with two pounds of shelled and cleaned shrimp and a couple of pounds of cod fillets cut into small cubes.  After poking around on the computer and watching a little junky daytime television with Jimmy, I tasted the broth to see what it needed.  Just a little salt and pepper.  I added the seafood and another bunch of washed, chopped cilantro, to brighten the pot.  And turned up the heat, just enough to cook the fish but not toughen it.  Two minutes later… voila!!  It was gorgeous!  Just the right amount of heat, citrus and aromatics.  Even Jimmy liked it and he HATES soup!  I think snapper, dolphin or wahoo would be outrageous in this and, of course, lime in place of lemon.  Lemon grass would be lovely as would some marjoram.  Play around with it or focus on the flavor YOU like.  If you like the anise flavor use fennel in place of cilantro and add  a splash of Pernod.  I few chopped tomatoes might be nice.  And I ever so carefully took the scotch bonnets out and discarded them.  Well, Jimmy just called from the Panther’s game, in some fancy, hoity-toity box, to say he can’t wait to come home and have some of the soup. I say, “Get out!”.  He hates beans and he hates soup and he’s going to start liking it now?  Well, fine by me!  Nothing makes me happier than when he likes what I love!  Soup is a luxury to me so if there’s motivation to prepare it, bring it!!  This is a fine soup, delicate and light, still satisfying and potent.  In MY kingdom, this would be the consummate meal if served in an individual, footed soup bowl in my formal porcelain pattern.  Would that it were.  But it’s still the best regardless of it’s serving vessel!