SLIDE SHOW: A Great-Grandfather's Recipe for Basque Salt Cod

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Juan Alcón


About a year ago, Alvaro bought this old barn in a tiny village in Alava, in the southern part of the Basque Country. He is slowly fixing it up.


Maggie Schmitt tells the story of Alvaro's family and its unusual take on bacalao al pil-pil in
A Great-Grandfather's Recipe for Basque Salt Cod.

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Juan Alcón


Alvaro, dashing in a brown bathrobe, organizes the ingredients.


Maggie Schmitt tells the story of Alvaro's family and its unusual take on bacalao al pil-pil in
A Great-Grandfather's Recipe for Basque Salt Cod.

3_schmitt_bacalao_6-1.JPG

Juan Alcón


Key ingredients: garlic, onions, and dried chorizero peppers.


Maggie Schmitt tells the story of Alvaro's family and its unusual take on bacalao al pil-pil in
A Great-Grandfather's Recipe for Basque Salt Cod.

4_schmitt_bacalao_6-1.JPG

Juan Alcón


Desalted salt cod is required for this recipe. Alvaro, a modern fellow with other things on his mind, opted to buy the cod already desalted from the supermarket.


Maggie Schmitt tells the story of Alvaro's family and its unusual take on bacalao al pil-pil in
A Great-Grandfather's Recipe for Basque Salt Cod.

5_schmitt_bacalao_6-1_VERT_384x576.jpg

Juan Alcón

Gacha follows the proceedings with interest.


Maggie Schmitt tells the story of Alvaro's family and its unusual take on bacalao al pil-pil in
A Great-Grandfather's Recipe for Basque Salt Cod.

6_schmitt_bacalao_6-1.JPG

Juan Alcón


In one pan, the onions are slowly cooking, while in the other Alvaro's grandmother's tomato conserves simmer.
Maggie Schmitt tells the story of Alvaro's family and its unusual take on bacalao al pil-pil in
A Great-Grandfather's Recipe for Basque Salt Cod.

7_schmitt_bacalao_6-1.JPG

Juan Alcón


Alvaro recounts family legends while we cook.
Maggie Schmitt tells the story of Alvaro's family and its unusual take on bacalao al pil-pil in
A Great-Grandfather's Recipe for Basque Salt Cod.

8_schmitt_bacalao_6-1.JPG

Juan Alcón


The cod is covered with flour.
Maggie Schmitt tells the story of Alvaro's family and its unusual take on bacalao al pil-pil in
A Great-Grandfather's Recipe for Basque Salt Cod.

9a_schmitt_bacalao_6-1_600x400.jpg

Juan Alcón


Once the onions are tender, the cod is carefully added. From here on it will cook slowly, releasing liquids that will thicken into a sauce.
Maggie Schmitt tells the story of Alvaro's family and its unusual take on bacalao al pil-pil in
A Great-Grandfather's Recipe for Basque Salt Cod.

10_schmitt_bacalao_6-1.JPG

Juan Alcón


Alvaro explains that it is important to shake the pan frequently so the cod does not stick. This helps the sauce to thicken as well.
Maggie Schmitt tells the story of Alvaro's family and its unusual take on bacalao al pil-pil in
A Great-Grandfather's Recipe for Basque Salt Cod.

11_schmitt_bacalao_6-1_600x380.jpg

Juan Alcón


Once the fish is mostly cooked, this trinity of ingredients, so characteristic of Ebro cuisine, is added: garlic, parsley, and choricero peppers.
Maggie Schmitt tells the story of Alvaro's family and its unusual take on bacalao al pil-pil in
A Great-Grandfather's Recipe for Basque Salt Cod.
12_schmitt_bacalao_6-1_VERT_400x600.jpg

Juan Alcón

These wilt into the existing sauce.


Maggie Schmitt tells the story of Alvaro's family and its unusual take on bacalao al pil-pil in
A Great-Grandfather's Recipe for Basque Salt Cod.
13_schmitt_bacalao_6-1_VERT_400x600.jpg

Juan Alcón

This is bacalao al pil-pil. But we're not finished yet!


Maggie Schmitt tells the story of Alvaro's family and its unusual take on bacalao al pil-pil in
A Great-Grandfather's Recipe for Basque Salt Cod.

14_schmitt_bacalao_6-1.JPG

Juan Alcón


There's still the other pan of tomato sauce.
Maggie Schmitt tells the story of Alvaro's family and its unusual take on bacalao al pil-pil in
A Great-Grandfather's Recipe for Basque Salt Cod.
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Juan Alcón

The peculiarity of Florencio's recipe is adding the tomato sauce at the end, smothering the pil-pil. Here, Alvaro adds a little salt at the very end (not earlier, as you never know how much salt the cod will release).


Maggie Schmitt tells the story of Alvaro's family and its unusual take on bacalao al pil-pil in
A Great-Grandfather's Recipe for Basque Salt Cod.
16_schmitt_bacalao_6-1_VERT_600x400.jpg

Juan Alcón

After cooking a few more minutes to meld the flavors, Florencio's recipe is fulfilled.


Maggie Schmitt tells the story of Alvaro's family and its unusual take on bacalao al pil-pil in
A Great-Grandfather's Recipe for Basque Salt Cod.
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Maggie Schmitt is a freelance researcher and translator based in Madrid.  She is currently working on a book called The Gaza Kitchen with Laila El-Haddad. Learn more at gazakitchens.wordpress.com.

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