Baccalà Mantecato is a Northern Italian specialty and when I make it I poach the baccalà in milk.
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.
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.
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.
According to my Sicilian relatives, only Sicilians know how to cook baccalà. 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.
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) .
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 baccalà, 800g, pre soaked
garlic, 1-2 cloves chopped very finely (I use a garlic press)
extra virgin olive oil, at least 1 cup
bay leaf, 1-3
parsley, finely chopped 1-2 tablespoons
milk, 2 litres
water, 1 litre
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.