The holidays are right around the corner, and in Puerto Rican households both on the island and on the mainland, salted codfish – bacalao – is a classic staple on the holiday menu. Bacalao – made by salting and drying codfish as a preservation method that enabled European colonialists to bring the protein across the ocean to the Caribbean centuries before refrigeration – is a holiday tradition thought to have been inherited from early Spanish settlers in Puerto Rico, who in observance of Catholic custom, would serve fish instead of meat during the Christmas Eve and New Year’s celebration.
“Nothing makes reminds me of Puerto Rico as much as delicious fish, made with our special touch,” says Chef Carmen Gonzalez, who has fond memories of beachside fish fries and holiday meals spent with family on the island. And while the flaky codfish fritters are typically served year-round on la isla, the Maine-based chef offers up her personal recipe for the deep-fried treats just in time for Christmas as a special tribute to her island and the flavors she loves so much. ¡Feliz Navidad!
1/2 pound bacalao (dried cod)
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1. Place the bacalao in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, remove from fire, drain and check for saltiness; if it is still too salty repeat the process. Using your, fingertips shred the bacalao.
2. In a medium size bowl using a wooden spoon mix the flour, salt, baking powder. Slowly add the water to form the batter. Add the bacalao.
3. In deep fryer or large pot filled with canola or other frying oil (the oil must have a temperature of 390º) drop 2 tablespoons of the mixture at a time. Cook until the mixture has a golden color. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in sheet pan layered with paper towels. Makes about 15 fritters.