David Tanis, who writes the weekly City Kitchen column, is the author of two cookbooks, “A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes” and “Heart of the Artichoke and Other Kitchen Journeys.”
How do I love thee? My darling, my cabbage, my little … salt cod?
If you grew up with it, you know what I mean. Or maybe you don’t. Actually, for me, it is an acquired adult taste, but now I’m completely hooked, if you’ll pardon the pun.
Dried and salted cod may no longer be a frugal pantry staple, cheap and ubiquitous, but it is still produced and remains popular, both here and abroad. And it’s more available than you think. I’ve found it in 1-pound packages in neighborhood supermarkets. At Italian and Portuguese delis, you can buy it in large fillets or chopped into strips for easier soaking, and in some Latino groceries it is sold from barrels. An old tradition of selling salt cod presoaked for meatless Catholic menus exists in some areas.
Here are a few salt cod delights: French style brandade, Italian baccalà mantecato (whipped with olive oil and herbs), Portuguese pan-fried garlicky salt cod with potatoes, or any of the various Caribbean beignets, croquetas or fritters. This is just for starters. I remember an exchange with a fellow in a Seville tapas bar about his favorite salt cod dishes. It was a very long conversation.
With true Atlantic cod stocks in decline, salt cod these days is often made from more sustainable pollock, haddock and Arctic cod, much of it from Norway and Alaska. Check with your fishmonger.