The Spanish made the most of the New World ingredients they found in Mexico, using potatoes, tomatoes and chiles in this dish, in addition to the olives they imported from Europe and the salted, dried cod that accompanied them on ocean voyages. The dried cod piled up in the markets at this time of year undergoes an almost magical culinary transformation from a rather unappetizing looking ingredient to an outstanding dish with an inspired combination of flavors.
- 4 pounds dried cod
- 12 cups milk
- 3 cups olive oil
- 2 whole heads garlic, separated and peeled
- 3 large white onions, peeled and finely chopped
- 3 pounds tomatoes, roasted on a comal or dry griddle
- 1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
- 1 pound small, new potatoes, boiled and peeled
- 1 ½ cups pimento stuffed olives,
- ¼ to ½ cup pickled jalapeño or güero chiles, according to taste
Soak the cod overnight, changing the water 4 times. Squeeze out excess water and place the cod in a bowl with the milk. Soak in milk another 2 hours, squeeze out excess milk and remove the bones and skin from the fish. Shred it finely and set aside while the seasoning sauce is being made.
Heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven, add the onions and cook over medium low heat until they soften and begin to turn golden. Add half the garlic and continue to cook until it begins to get soft.
Puree the roasted tomatoes and the remaining garlic in a blender, strain and add to the pot. Cover and cook over low heat until a thick sauce forms and all juice from the tomatoes has evaporated. The sauce should take at least an hour to caramelize properly.
Add the shredded fish, parsley, potatoes, olives and chiles with their pickling juice to taste, and simmer for another 30 minutes. Add salt judiciously if desired; this dish should not require much. Allow the dish to stand before reheating and serving. It can be made a day ahead and refrigerated before reheating slowly. Serves 12 as a first course.
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