If you’re in Rome and you don’t taste a fried baccalà fillet, you’re missing out! The regional Italian cuisine is rich in traditional recipes based on salted cod. Let’s take an example: the baccalà alla livornese (fried and cooked in tomato sauce), vicentina style (cooked in many ways and often accompanied by polenta), molisana style (baked with potatoes); it can be grilled, stewed, or prepared as a filling for pasta and made in other ways. Coming back to Roman cuisine, the baccalà fillet is often sold with other fried foods, like artichokes and courgette flowers, and is a classic street food, served in paper cones, ready to take away or to be eaten on a dish.
Firstly, baccalà is nothing but cod. After being cleaned, cut and gutted, it is cut into fillets and preserved in salt. It comes from two varieties of cod: the Gadus macrocephalus and the Gadus morhua; the first one lives in the North Pacific while the second comes from the Northern Atlantic. The main countries that produce baccalà are: Denmark, Far Oer Islands, Norway, Iceland and Canada. The name comes from the Flemish kabeljaw, which means “fish stick”.
What’s the difference between stockfish and baccalà? They are both the same fish, cod. What’s different is that stockfish is left whole to dry out (after being cleaned and gutted), and not cut into fillets.
Cod is a white fish, low in fat and perfect for low-calorie diets. It is, however, very rich in minerals such as: phosphorus, iodine, iron and calcium. The only consideration is that, since its high content of sodium, it should be eaten moderately for people suffering from high blood pressure.
Salting, which is the elimination of the water content of foods, stops the reproduction of microorganisms, offering a long preservation. The method dates back to ancient Babylon, where they used to salt mutton meat. Recently, it was discovered that the salting of the cod comes from the Basque fishermen who, during the fishing of whales in the Northern seas, they would be confronted by schools of cod near Newfoundland. After having fished out many, they thought about salting those fishes, as they used to do with whales when there was a lack of them.
It is well known that the softness of white fish meat makes baccalà a gourmet product. But that depends on the season, the fishing areas, grazing (the baits that the fishermen throw into the water to attract and keep the fishes in a specific area) and from their reproductive activity. It is important for it to be white, but not too much, because it could have been whitened, and tender, with an opalescent aspect due to the salting process. Usually, baccalà is sold cut into fillets that help the cooking process. As opposed to stockfish, baccalà has a certain amount of water in it, so it must be kept in the fridge and not at room temperature. Before cooking, both baccalà and stockfish need to be sitting in water for 48 hours, so that the salt comes off the fish and makes it tender.
If you are having a stroll in Rome, you can try the baccalà fillets of MAMI and other take away fried food to taste while you admire the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi by Bernini in the nearby Piazza Navona or before going to see an exhibition at the Chiostro del Bramante, a few steps away from the pizzeria. Choose among our fried foods.
L’immagine dell’articolo è di Di Paolo Tonon – Italy (Stoccafisso)