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Bacalao: What does it taste like? Do you like it?

Growing up, my mom occasionally made finnan haddie in a cream sauce with hard boiled eggs, served over boiled potatoes. It was such delicious comfort food! Here in MĂ©xico, there is no possibility of finding that, but dried cod is everywhere. I used to see it in Italian delis in San Francisco as well, but I've never tasted it. If I soaked it in water and then milk, could I make something like the finnan haddie I remember? Or is it fishy tasting? I think finnan haddie is smoked. I could add some of our excellent smoked tuna to the dish for that flavor. I think the smoked tuna or marlin on its own would be too rich. Just a crazy idea. Don't want to waste time and $ cooking it if it isn't palatable! Thanks for your advice.

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  1. Your right about it being smoked. Finnan haddie is Haddock, Bacalao is Cod. Dried cod, some salted and some not, and it's common from Norway and throughout the Mediterranean. I too remember it in the Deli's when I lived in San Francisco. Cod has a mild flavor, similar (IMO) to what you might expect from Haddock. As long as you soaked the salt out of the dried fish and rinsed it thoroughly before adding it to your recipe I don't see why you couldn't use it in your finnan haddie recipe. If you want a hint of smokey flavor you could use a very small (like a drop) of liquid smoke.

    4 Replies
    1. re: todao

      Thanks so much! I will try it.

      1. re: MazDee

        When cooking with bacalao, be sure to change the soaking water three times before using. I soak mine overnight in the frig. Bacalao is plentiful and pretty inexpensive in NYC, although it's sometimes pollock, rather than cod.
        There's nothing worse than very salty bacalao anything.

        1. re: bushwickgirl

          I've bought some of the pollock 'bacalao' from a Korean megamart. It's a lot cheaper than any of the cod versions I've found (whether the frozen stuff in a neat box, or the big ugly slabs). This is Seattle, not NY.

          I've wondered how similar the pollock version is to the cod. It works well enough in the few Spanish style recipes that I've tried.

          1. re: paulj

            it's difficult to taste the difference. Works just fine for me.

    2. You ask, "Or is it fishy tasting?"

      Bacalao is readily available here in Colombia. Getting the salt out is the same here as it is everywhere else. Once that is done, I hope that there is some fish flavor left!! I don't look for fish textured cardboard.

      [insert sideways grinning idiot ikon here to indicate above said in good humor]

      1. LOVE it but I'm afraid I'm the only one in my family who does so I rarely have it anymore. Personally, I think it has a very pleasant fishy flavor. I would not describe it exactly like cod -- tho of course it IS cod. I can't put my finger on quite what the difference is but if you want cod, get cod; if you want bacalao get dried salted cod.

        When you pick it, look carefully for a thicker center section. Avoid the tail. And soak, soak, soak. My grandmother always made the final soak a soak in milk. I'm not sure why or if it made any difference at all.

        Braised or roasted in tomato is, I believe, the classic Portuguese prep. My Maine family made panfried fish cakes with roasted potato and rehydrated cod. Love them both.

        1 Reply
        1. re: rainey

          I like it--good quality salt cod should not be fishy at all. Biggest difference is in the texture, which is a little chewy at times, but not in a bad way.

          Cultural note: There is a saying in Spanish (not sure if it is from Spain or elsewhere in the Hispanophone world): "Te reconozco bacalao aunque vayas disfrazado." "I recognize you, salt cod, even when you come in disguise." Point is that this was food for poor people in the past, and it found its way into just about everything...

        2. To me, rehydrated/desalinated salt cod tastes like mild firm white fish--probably what you would expect. Saltiness depends on how long you soak and frequency of water changes. And yes, I like it!

          1 Reply
          1. re: Olivia

            OK, I will do this! I think the cod cakes mentioned in a previous post sound great, too! I actually saw those on a menu at a very good restaurant recently and was intrigued, but the mussels caught my eye and I didn't try the cod cakes. Thanks, everybody!

          2. This thread makes me recall my visit to Italy, where in Verona I took myself and my poor Italian skills to a restaurant. Being ready for most anything, I tried to ask the waiter what this "BaccalĂ " was that I heard the next table ordering. Somehow, he left me thinking it was swordfish. I said I'd try it, and boy was I surprised. They served it pretty wet in a fresh-tomatoey sauce. I didn't especially like it, but it's hard to be sure, because so much of my initial response was wrapped up in wondering what this stuff actually was!