NEW YEAR TRADITIONAL – Festive Season

It is far too late to write about Christmas recipes, although Christmas melds with New Year Festivities, especially in Australia.

I have to admit that usually my month of December is just so busy that I don’t have time to investigate new recipes. I tend to rely on old favourites that I can cook with my eyes closed. Some of these old favourites are:  Pasta con le sarde; baccalà cooked in various ways;  a risotto or pasta with squid and black ink with green peas; mussels; tuna steaks also cooked in different ways: insalata Russa; grilled seasonal vegetables like zucchini, peppers and eggplants; and for dessert, there is either Zuppa Inglese with Arkemes (Alchermes) or Cassata.

You will find all of these recipes on my blog.

This year I am in Adelaide for Christmas. I had given my family in Adelaide some options of what I could cook  for Christmas Eve, but they all asked for two old favourites –  Baccalà Mantecato and Caponata Catanese as antipasti….. same old, same old…

The Baccalà Mantecato is from the Veneto region in Italy and something that was very common in Trieste (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) where my parents and I lived when I was a child.  The baccalà is soaked in water for 3 days, then poached in milk, bay and a couple of garlic cloves, drianed and creamed with extra virgin oilve oil. It is spread on crostini – bread brushed with oil and toasted. The crostini my mother made were toased in a frypan and never in the oven. Crostini made with polenta are also favourites… but who has the time?

Photo below is the soaked baccalà.

The Caponata Catanese is from Catania in Sicily.  Unlike the Caponata from Palermo that is made with eggplants. This version is made with peppers as well as eggplants and the usual caponata ingredients of green olives, celery, a bit of tomato paste and the agro-dolce, (a sweet and sour sauce). This is topped with pine nuts and basil.

So let’s just share a recipe for Christmas, but remember that at this time of year it is hot in Australia (because it is summer), if it is winter where you are, you may not even consider cooking it.

It is braised lentils cooked with Cotechino…..Cotechino con le lenticchie.

Although I would never serve this at midnight as was customary in some parts of Emilia-Romagna where the dish originates, it is an interesting choice. The Cotechino is a rich seasoned pork sausage that I poach with the lentils. The thick  sausage is then sliced and served on top of a bed of  braised lentils.

The green lentils that resemble the shape of coins are intended to bring you prosperity in the New Year.

COTECHINO AND LENTILS; NEW YEAR’S EVE and CHRISTMAS

New Year’s Eve Baccalà Mantecato

BACCALÀ MANTECATO, risotto

CAPONATA recipes:

THE MANY VERSIONS OF CAPONATE

CAPONATA Catanese (from Catania) made easy with photos

CAPONATA FROM PALERMO (made with eggplants)

CAPONATA DI NATALE (Christmas, winter caponata made with celery, almonds and sultanas)

A MOUNTAIN OF CAPONATA: two days before Christmas

Photos of the caponata cooked in Melbourne and brought to Adelaide. once again I used my heavy wok to cook each of the vegetables separately.

HOW ONE FISH RECIPE CAN EVOLVE INTO A DIFFERENT DISH

Somehow, I ended up eating fish for most of the week, and part of the first recipe lead into the second, and part of the second led into the third, but each dish was unique.

Of course there were also left overs.

I made Baccalà Mantecato on the weekend. The baccalà has to be soaked for a couple of days before it is poached in milk with some bay leaves and a clove of garlic. It is a dish that comes from the Veneto region and is also particularly popular in Trieste (Friuli Venezia Giulia).

Cooking the garlic in milk softens the taste and once blended with the baccalà and extra virgin olive oil, the taste of the garlic is less aggressive.

I always save the poaching liquid whether I poach the baccalà in milk or in water, and I did this a couple of days later when I made Baccalà Mantecato for a friend who is allegic to diary.

I cooked fish again. I bought some fish cutlets, slices cut horizontally, each steak usually has four distinct fleshy segments and each segment can be studded with a different flavour. Below is a photo of what I expect when I buy this cut of fish that I use regularly. I have included a link to a full recipe at the end of this post.

The photo below shows the four distinct segments of fish that surround the central spine, each receptive to a different flavour. It looks like on that occasion I studded the segments with cloves, oregano, fennel and garlic. At other times I have used sage, cinnamon, dill, thyme, rosemary or tarragon. The flavours I use for the stuffing will also determine what use to deglaze the pan after I have sauteed the fish, for example on various occasions I have used dry marsala (especially for Sicilian cooking), vermouth, Pernod and a variety of white wines that impart different flavours to the fish. Lemon juice or vinegar is also good.

When I opened the parcel and was ready to stud my fish, I noticed that only one slice was as I expected (cut from the tail end of the fish), but the other slices included what I call ‘flaps’, the often long and bony sides of fish encasing the gut of the fish.

It is part of the fish’s anatomy, but what I objected to was that the slices in the display cabinet were all the same size. These slices were not at all suitable for inserting with four different flavours; they were also difficult to fit into the frypan comfortably.

I cut the flaps off and only used two flavours to stud into the flesh of the fish – garlic and thyme.

I pan fried the fish, added some herbs – fresh fennel fronds and parsley. I deglazed the pan with a splash of white wine, evaporated it, added a little of the stock from the baccalà, added some capers.

What to do with the flaps?

The next day I poached the flaps in water flavoured with some onion, whole peppercorns, bay leaves, a little celery. This gave me some extra fish stock as well as an opportunity to remove the flesh and discard the skin and bones. I discarded the greenery.

I had the makings of a fish risotto.

Making a risotto is easy. I decided to add peas, frozen at this time of year and herbs of course, as in all of my cooking.

I softened one chopped onion in butter and extra virgin olive oil, added 1 cup of rice to the pan and toasted the rice. A splash of white wine, evaporated it, added 1 cup of peas and some chopped parsley and fennel. Tossed them all in the hot pan, added a little salt and then proceeded to add the milk stock from the baccalà and the stock used to poach the flaps of the fish to cook the risotto.

I added the fish pieces to the risotto when it was nearly cooked (to warm it), the grated rind and juice of a lemon and at the very end some butter and black pepper.

There was enough for lunch the next day and the evolving fish meals stopped there!

FISH STUDDED WITH SICILIAN FLAVOURS

BACCALÀ MANTECATO (Creamed salt cod, popular in the Veneto region and Trieste)

New Year’s Eve Baccalà Mantecato

BACCALÀ MANTECATO, risotto

 

BACCALÀ MANTECATO, risotto

Baccalà Mantecato is a Northern Italian specialty and when I make it I poach the baccalà in milk.

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So what to do with the left over milk?

I made a risotto.

I had two jars of baccalà flavoured milk, far too much to make a risotto, so I reduced it to concentrate the flavour, and this worked well.

I used this antique gadget given to me a very long time ago by a friend. it is called a milk saver.  She used to find all sorts of treasures at the Stirling dump in the Adelaide Hills and this was one of them.  It does work!

Just using the milk would not be enough to flavour the risotto. I wanted texture and more flavour and I had some Mantecato left over in the fridge.

Ingredients: extra virgin olive oil,  carnaroli rice, spring onions, bay leaves, thyme, parsley, grated lemon peel, Baccalà Mantecato and roasted almonds to spring on top.

Method is nothing out of the ordinary when making risotto.

Check the taste of the milk to see if it is salty and you may not need to add any more seasoning.

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Saute the spring onion in the extra virgin olive oil, add the rice and coat it in the oil -at this stage you may like to add a little white wine and evaporate it.  Add thyme and bay leaves and gradually add the milk in stages, just as you would add stock when making a risotto. If you do not have sufficient milk you may need to add a little water. Remember that rice is supposed to be presented “all’onda”, as Italian would say. “Onda” means wave….all’onda is wavy, therefore the  risotto should be moist, with waves on top and not solid.

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Add the parsley, grated lemon and the Mantecato last of all and stir through. The Mantecato will make the rice very creamy.

Sprinkle with roasted almonds when ready to serve.
There are several recipes for baccalà on the web and also for risotto.

BACCALÀ MANTECATO (Creamed salt cod, popular in the Veneto region and Trieste)

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New Year’s Eve Baccalà Mantecato

This is baccalà that has been soaking for two days. I kept it in the fridge in a sealed container and changed the water four times per day.

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This is baccalà that I am poaching in some water (to cover) and some bay leaves. I usually poach it in milk but the friend I was preparing this for is allergic to dairy.

I  let it cool and removed the bones, skin and cartilage.

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I then drained the solids because I wanted to use some of the liquid in the mixture that I blended in my food processor  – the baccalà, with oil and garlic until it looked like mayonnaise.

So what is this?

Baccalà Mantecato and  I present it spread on crostini.

I have the recipe in my second cookbook Small Fishy Bites and is popular in Trieste and Venice and neighbouring localities .

For background and full recipe see early post: Baccalà Mantecato

STOCKFISH and SALT COD -The differences between stoccafisso and baccalà and recipes.

 

 

BACCALÀ MANTECATO (Creamed salt cod, popular in the Veneto region and Trieste)

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 Ortigia, Syracuse

According to my Sicilian relatives, only Sicilians know how to cook bacca. Having lived in Trieste (north Italy), I was very familiar with this fish that is cooked in a variety of ways in this region. I particularly like baccalà mantecato, (boiled cod fish and then whipped or beaten with oil and garlic – one of the most representative recipes in Venetian cuisine). I tried to introduce my Sicilian relatives to this once, but they were not interested. Sicilians are particularly conservative about food that isn’t theirs.

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Baccalà mantecato is not easily found in restaurants (most restaurants in Australia cook Southern Italian food) but I have eaten it at Guy Grossi’s, The Merchant –an osteria in Melbourne with typical food from the north-east of Italy.  Most of the food is presented as cichetti— bite-sized morsels.

The food at The Merchant brings back many childhood memories, including the Veneto dialect used for the names of the offerings on the menu (very similar to the Triestino dialect spoken in Trieste) .

Baccalà mantecato, has the thickness of a creamy, mashed potato. The fish spread is served cold and in my youth i ate it spread on crostini – thin slices of white bread, lightly fried till crisp in extra virgin olive oil. We passed the crostini around to guests while they drank an aperitivo. – usually a vermouth. Needless to say, a glass of prosecco or soave is also a good accompaniment. In Venice, baccalà mantecato is more likely to be spread on crostini made with cooked polenta that has been lightly toasted ( lightly fried or grilled) .

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There are various recipes for how to make this and not all add milk. I was taught that the milk sweetened the taste and helped to preserve the white colour.

Thick pieces of salt cod (cut from the centre) are the thickest and the best. Leave the skin, but cut away fins and obvious bones. Cut into serving size pieces (7- 10cm). Rinse well in running water before soaking for 36-48 hours (over soaking will not spoil the fish, especially if the pieces of baccalà are thick). Keep it covered in a bowl in the fridge. Change the water at least 4-5 times.

INGREDIENTS
bacca, 800g, pre soaked
garlic, 1-2 cloves chopped very finely (I use a garlic press)
extra virgin olive oil, at least 1 cup
pepper
bay leaf, 1-3
parsley,  finely chopped 1-2 tablespoons
milk, 2 litres
water, 1 litre
PROCESSES
Cover the pre soaked baccalà with cold water and milk, and bring it slowly to the boil. Add a bay leaf.
Simmer gently for 30- 40 mins. Allow it to rest and cool in the liquid.
Remove the fish from the poaching liquid, pick out all the bones and remove the skin. Use a fork to break the flesh into small pieces.
Place fish in a bowl and add the garlic and about ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil. Begin to beat the fish with a wooden spoon and keep on adding oil as you would if you were making mayonnaise by hand. The mixture will look like a thick, white, fluffy cream. Keep on adding oil until the mixture will not absorb any more – it may absorb 1-1½ cups of oil.
The above process can also be done in a food processor.

The photograph of baccalà montecato was one of the entrées presented a couple of years ago as part of The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival; the event was called Around Italy in 7 Days – Travel north to south with a different gastronomic journey each night.

Massimiliano Ferraiuolo was the chef (originally from Naples) who was visiting from Italy for a week’s residence at Society Restaurant and cooking each evening. (This was the evening to celebrate food from the north of Italy). the baccalà montecato was presented on a bed of mashed fresh peas with black toasted bread (black squid ink was used in the bread mixture), sprinkled with paprika, toasted almonds and a fresh, red autumn leaf . Pumpernickel bread is also suitable.

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