This creamed codfish version is another example of the extreme variety and richness of Italian cuisine: stockfish and salted codfish were introduced to Southern Europe centuries ago, and they were adapted to hundreds of recipes across the Mediterranean.
Creamed codfish is a delicate appetiser which exalts two typical ingredients of Northern Italy, codfish (also popular in all of Southern Europe) and polenta. Yellow or white, hot straight from a copper polenta pot, or sliced and grilled, polenta is an excellent and gluten free food that is delicious in every season.
Even if it is referred to as baccalà (salted codfish) in this venetian recipe, the fish used in this dish is stockfish. Venice was the first city in Southern Europe where stockfish was introduced by the nobleman Pietro Querini in 1432. This gentleman was bound for Flanders, but his merchant ship encountered a terrible storm off the western coast of France. The storm ravaged the ship, and the few surviving sailors, after weeks spent fighting the storm and cold temperatures for weeks, finally drifted on the Gulf Stream far across the North Sea. Stranded on an island off of Norway amid the small Lofoten Islands, they were found by local fishermen and spent months with the Røst inhabitants.
This dramatic incident was the origin of trade between northern Norway and Italy, which made the combination of Norwegian stockfish and Italian cooking possible.
This kind of preparation consists of cod fish dried on wooden racks, where cold-adapted bacteria matures the fish. The word stockfish is a loan word from West Frisian stokfisk (stick fish), possibly referring to the wooden racks on which stockfish are traditionally dried or because the dried fish resembles a stick.
Prep Time: 20 minutes | Cooking Time: 30 minutes | Total Time: 50 minutes (3 hours for cooling down) | Yield: Makes 4 servings.
- 300 g stockfish, already soaked
- 4 cups (I L) cold water
- 3 garlic cloves
- ¼ cup (50 ml) delicate olive oil
- 1/3 cup (100 ml) vegetable oil
- 3 black pepper grains
- ¼ cup (80 g) milk
- 3 juniper berries
- 1 bay leaf
- Sea salt
A day before, infuse two chopped garlic cloves in the combined oils. Filter it and discard the garlic before using it. If you prefer, you can rub the bowl you are going to use the cream the fish with the peeled garlic.
In a pot, add the milk, water, pepper, bay leaf, juniper berries, and the stockfish.
When it reaches a boiling point, reduce the heat and let it simmer for thirty minutes. Turn off the heat and let it cool down in the cooking liquid, until it is room temperature.
Take the stockfish and crumble it, using your fingers, discarding the bones and the skin. Put it in a food processor and finely mince the stockfish.
Move the fish to a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. While whisking, drizzle with the infused oil and a few tablespoons of the cooking liquid, alternating them, and add salt. The stockfish is ready when it has turned into a velvety and soft cream.
Store in the fridge and serve it cold on warm grilled polenta slices.
“Stoccafisso” is a particular way of preparing cod fish which comes from Germany where it is completely dried on a stick from which the name originates: stock (stick) and fisch (fish).