It’s been weeks of well below-zero temperatures at my house. We are still shoveling snow, marveling at the incredible northern lights, and trying to stay warm. Around Alaska, not everyone is deep in snow. Some people are out on the ocean fishing. It’s a time of year when several Alaska fish species are in abundance, including cod.
Maybe it’s a little warm-weather dreaming as the snow drifts across my window, but I decided this week, with a delivery of fresh cod, to make a dish that I fell in love with in Barcelona. I have been studying Spanish cuisine for a while now and perhaps my favorite dish is a paper cone of bolas de bacalao from the Boqueria market in Barcelona. Let’s break that down. Bolas means balls and bacalao is salted cod; so, this translates to cod balls.
I couldn’t bring myself to use salted cod in our Alaska recipe. Why bother? It seems the whole world adores salt cod and I personally don’t think we Alaskans need it. We have access to such fresh fish here (and I guess I can throw in the cold temperatures for preservation). In Barcelona, salt cod hangs like prayer flags throughout the markets and you might wonder how there can be any fish left in the sea. It’s not tricky to use salt cod but you have to budget in the time to soak the fish in water to rehydrate it and change the water frequently to wash out some of the saltiness. It does have a particular pleasantly concentrated flavor and it’s worth a try if you are interested.
In the photo essay, you can see that we mashed up boiled potatoes, added in parsley, onions, garlic, and spices. Then, we added in the poached cod, egg, and lemon. At this point, you could use the same batter to make dinner-sized cod cakes, or add the mixture into chicken broth and tomatoes to make a stew, or, add it into chicken broth and cream for chowder.
We portioned the batter into bite-sized pieces and rolled them into a round shape. We then dipped them first into flour, egg, and then Panko breadcrumbs. Some people, my daughter Mandy included, will repeat the dipping cycle a couple of times to create a slightly thicker crust.
I have a small, almost personal-sized deep fryer that I love. There are many models out there but the smaller size allows for less oil waste and easy storage. I like to use canola oil for frying. I heat the oil to about 360 degrees and drop in one test fritter to make sure the temperature is good. I fry the balls for a few minutes until they are golden brown and place them onto paper toweling to soak up any excess oil. I like to sprinkle our fritters right away with plenty of salt.
We made a little sofrito to go along with our fritters, but we often make a garlicky mayonnaise called alioli (In Catalan, it is alioli. In France, it is aioli). Sofrito is easy to make. We heat plenty of olive oil in a sauté pan; add in a handful of minced onion, garlic, and perhaps a hot green pepper. After this is good and sautéed, we add in a can or two of good quality organic diced tomatoes.
I have some cod left over, so next I am going to try a true British fish and chips recipe from Chef Josh Eggleton on the website www.greatbritishchefs.com. He puts curry powder and lager beer into his batter and serves them with smashed peas.
- 3-4 Alaska red "B" potatoes
- Good quality extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 bunch green onions, minced
- ½ yellow onion, peeled, halved, and minced
- 1 cup milk
- 1 pound boneless, skinless cod
- Salt and pepper to taste
- A few good pinches of nutmeg
- 1 lemon, cut in half
- 1 handful flat-leaf parsley, washed and minced
- 2 eggs
- Coarse sea salt (optional)
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup panko
- Oil for deep fryer
- Wash the potatoes and quarter them. Drop them into salted boiling water. Cook the potatoes until they are tender, about ten minutes. Drain and place the potatoes into a medium bowl.
- Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan. Add in the garlic, green onions, and yellow onion. Sauté over low heat until the onion is soft and translucent, about ten minutes. Add in the milk. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Cut the fish up into pieces that fit easily in your pan. Add the fish into the milk mixture. Poach the fish for about 5-7 minutes.
- Lift the fish out of the milk mixture and add it in with the potatoes. Season the potatoes and fish with salt and pepper. Add in a few gratings of nutmeg, the juice of one-half lemon, and the parsley. Mix the mixture lightly. You can vary the texture of the batter here either by blending quite well or leaving it a little chunky. Add in one egg and mix well. Refrigerate the fish mixture for about 30 minutes.
- In the meantime, bring the deep fryer up to the temperature of 360 degrees.
- Crack the other egg into a small bowl and mix with a fork. Add the flour and panko separately into two small bowls.
- Shape about one ounce of the fish batter into a round ball. Dip the ball into the flour, then the egg, and finally the panko. Repeat with as many balls as you want to make. (If I haven’t suggested enough alternate uses for the cod batter above, any leftover sautéed batter is great in eggs in the morning or in pasta for lunch).
- Drop one fish ball into the fryer to check the temperature. It will take about 2-3 minutes to cook, turning a light golden brown. Repeat.
- Cut the remaining lemon into wedges. Sprinkle the cod fritters with chunky sea salt if you prefer and serve with a spicy sofrito and lemon wedges.