Salt Cod Stew

Tomato-based sauce with chunks of white fish atop yellow polenta on an orange dish
Photo by Meg Baggott / Food Styling by Katherine Rosen

Courtesy David Pasternack, Esca, New York City

It isn’t an Italian Christmas Eve without baccalà, or salt-dried cod. While many families make this into an antipasto-style salad, Pasternack cooks his cod into a luscious, spicy ragù that clings gorgeously to polenta.

Pro tip: When you make polenta, Pasternack recommends an even ratio water to milk for the cooking liquid base to produce ultra-creamy results.

Feast of the Seven Fishes
  • 2 pounds baccalà, boneless
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and sliced thin
  • 24 Calabrese olives, pitted, liquid reserved
  • 1 24-ounce can cherry tomatoes, run through a food mill to separate seeds
  • ¼ cup fresh chopped parsley

In large, deep-rimmed baking pan or dish, immerse baccalà in water for 3 days, changing water twice per day. Dice into 1-inch cubes.

To make ragù, sauté onion and garlic until tender. Add jalapeño, olives and a dash of olive juice, and cook until just tender. Add tomatoes and simmer for 20 minutes, skimming off any foam.

Add baccalà. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until fish breaks apart and becomes incorporated into thickened sauce. Serve over polenta. Top with parsley. Serves 6–8.

Pair It

Rocca di Castagnoli 2015 Chianti Classico. This opens with aromas of black-skinned berries, cooking spices and aromatic herbs. On the savory palate, polished tannins and fresh acidity accompany black cherry, crushed raspberry and clove. Drink through 2022.

Published on December 7, 2018