I have had a request from a reader for how to cook stockfish (stoccafisso or pescestocco in Italian and piscistoccu in Sicilian). She plans to cook it for Good Friday.
There are two recipes for how to cook salt cod (baccalà) on the blog already (see links below) and these recipes can also be used for stockfish (stoccafisso).
What I have not done on my blog is to say what the differences are between stoccafisso and baccalà. The photo above was taken in Syracuse. The seller is selling baccalà (the large fillets of white fish).
Stoccafisso and baccalà are popular all over Italy, from north to south.
Baccala`is cooked all over Sicily, but stoccafisso is particularly popular in Messina (n0rth-eastern corner of Sicily).
Although at times stoccafisso and baccalà are used interchangeably in recipes, they are different.
Stoccafisso is air-dried, without salt, and the fish can be cod, haddock or hake. It is dry and hard and usually sold as a whole fish, complete with bones and skin.( In the photo above Stockfish is hanging from the top of the counter at Mercato in Adelaide).
Baccalà is salt-cured cod. In Spanish it is bacalao, in Portuguese bacalhau, in French morue, and it is made from various varieties of cod: cod, ling, saithe and tusk. It is relatively moist and tender and usually sold cut into sections rather than a whole fish. It is skinless, boneless and white. Although baccalà may appear initially to be more appealing, there are no added ingredients in the processing of stoccafisso and it has a more delicate flavour than baccalà.
Stoccafisso and baccalà can be cooked many ways and were usually eaten on days of abstinence (Fridays and during Lent, especially on Good Friday ) when meat was not to be eaten by Catholics. Christmas Eve is also a very popular time to eat stoccafisso or baccalà .
To prepare both the stoccafisso and baccalà rinse well and soak it in cold water for 20–24 hours, minimum, depending upon its thickness (refrigerate it in hot weather). Change the water 2–3 times daily. I have seen recipes that suggest soaking the fish for 48 hours – time you soak it depends on the quality and age of the fish, but it will not suffer too much if it is soaked for longer.
Once it has soaked, rinse the fish well. If it is stockfish, skin it, pick out the bones and cut it into large pieces (130mm) and it’s ready for use.
Baccalà generally takes longer to cook than stoccafisso but it will depend on the thickness of the fish.
Stoccafisso and baccalà require soaking in water before cooking: stoccafisso needs soaking for several days to rehydrate it and baccalà requires an equal amount of time to remove the salt. Most Italian and Spanish food stores sell pre-soaked stoccafisso or baccalà and is ready to use. Remove cartilage, bones and skin of the stockfish before cooking.
This photo was sent to me by a friend. They are the racks used to dry stockfish near Honningsvåg in Norway.
Carmela, one of my parents’ friends, cooked stoccafisso alla ghiotta for me many years ago in Adelaide. Originally from Messina, Carmela came to Australia as a young woman. Her version had tomatoes in it, but it can be cooked without tomatoes as well and called in bianco (white/ without tomatoes).
stock fish, 1 kg
tomatoes, 500g peeled, seeded, and chopped (or 1 cup passata)
extra virgin olive oil, ½ cup
celery heart, 2-3 pale green stalks and leaves, chopped
onion, 1 large chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
flat leaf parsley, cut finely, 4 tablespoons
green olives,1 cup, pitted, chopped
capers, ½ cup salted variety, soaked and washed
potatoes, 500g peeled and cut into large chunks
Soak the stockfish and prepare it according to the instructions above.
For la ghiotta:
Add the celery and onion to hot, extra virgin olive oil. Use a pan large enough to accommodate all of the ingredients, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir frequently to cook evenly.
Reduce the heat to medium; add the capers, olives, and flat leaf parsley and stir well.
Add the tomatoes, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, stir, and cook for about 10 minutes to blend the flavours.
Place the fish in the sauce (preferably in a single layer) and spoon some of the sauce over it.
Reduce the heat to very low – the fish should not be stirred or it will flake. Cover, and cook for about 20 minutes before adding large chunks of potatoes. If you are using baccalà instead of stoccafisso you may need to cook it a little longer.
Add 1–2 cups of water and leave undisturbed to cook, but occasionally adding a little more water to keep the ingredients moist and until the fish and potatoes are cooked to your liking.
This dish is always served hot, but can easily be reheated if cooked beforehand.
Recipes are from my first book: Sicilian Seafood Cooking:
Aggiotta di baccalà in bianco
Photo below was taken in Macau where I saw many baskets of cod drying in the street.