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This recipe for salted cod with garlic sauce, called in Greek bakaliáros skordaliá, is part of two important holiday menus. We usually eat these salted cod croquettes on Clean Monday, which marks the beginning of the 40-day fasting & detox season of Lent (Sarakostí), just before Easter. Families get together and enjoy this dish with a special flat bread called lagána and the classic Greek caviar-like, taramosaláta, a salty fish roe spread...and of course, lots of Greek olives!
Τhe second big cod-eating occasion usually comes soon after Clean Monday, on March 25th. This is a special day that not only celebrates Greece's Independence from the Ottoman Empire but also marks the religious feast day of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary. Since March 25th usually falls during Lent, and because it's an Orthodox holiday, many people prefer vegetarian, vegan or pescatarian dishes. Having said that, bakaliáros is so tasty that we eat it year-round and you can now find it on the menu of many tavernas throughout the year.
Since this is such a traditional dish, I wanted to honor my mom when writing about it. She was not the typical housewife of her generation, for she worked while I was growing up and really only began cooking when she retired...but she became an amazing cook and constantly inspired me! She swore by the classic Greek cookbook of Vefa Alexiadou, who was Greece's Julia Child, and whose Christmas cookies recipe was my mom's go-to holiday recipe (I shared that in another blog, too). This fried cod recipe and the picture are from Vefa's cookbook (sadly, I couldn't find any pictures of my mom's bakaliáros), but the skordaliá garlic spread recipe that accompanies it is from my adopted island traditions. Usually Greeks make the spread with either moistened bread or boiled potatoes, and sometimes add chopped walnuts. In the island version, both potatoes and bread are used, and sometimes local ingredients belonging to the island.
Fun fact: this Greek island garlic sauce is locally called aliáda from the Latin name for garlic, Allium sativum, a testament to the Venetian and Genoese influences on island cuisine. However you decide to make it, I hope you enjoy!
2 lbs salted cod
3-4 tbs water
Olive oil for frying
Clean the skin off the salted cod. Cut the fish into pieces and place them in a big bowl of water. The water needs to cover all the fish pieces. Let them rest in the water for 18-20 hours so that the salt leeches out and the pieces soften, making sure you change the water two or three times.
When the cod is ready, take the pieces out of the water, throw away any bones, and let the pieces drain well in a colander.
Prepare your batter by beating lightly the eggs with the water, adding a pinch of salt and flour, as much as you need for a pancake-like batter.
Place the pieces of cod one by one in the batter to coat well and then fry them in the olive oil. You can either deep fry the cod or simply put a half-inch layer of oil in your frying pan, turning over when golden brown.
Serve the cod with Skordalia (Greek garlic sauce), lemon and a fresh salad for a delicious seafood lunch or dinner.
5-6 crushed garlic
3/4 tsp Kosher salt
2 medium potatoes (about 1/2 lb)
2 slices of bread
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup vinegar
1/3 cup water
Boil the potatoes until fork-tender and throw away the skin.
Moisten the bread slices in a bowl of water, squeezing out the excess water with a fork or spoon.
Put all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend 1-2 minutes at medium speed until you obtain a smooth mixture. If the mixture seems too thick, carefully add a little bit of water until you get to a paste-like consistency.
Skordaliá is delicious with fried cod or other fried fish, fried zucchini or eggplant slices, and steamed veggies like broccoli, cauliflower or beets.
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