One of my favourite Venetian dishes is “Baccalà Mantecato”, a fish cream made of dried cod.
I never tried to cook it myself as it’s preparation is pretty time consuming (and I find it here in every supermarket), but as not everyone can be that lucky – and for all the cooking freaks out there who want to prepare one of the traditional Venetian “cicchetti” – I translated you a recipe that I found recently on the internet.
Ingredients for 4 persons
250 gr. of baccalà (dried cod), already soaked and cleaned (fishbones)
Olive Oil Extra Vergine
bay, 1 lemon, salt, pepper
Put the baccalà in a pan, cover it with cold water (slightly salted) and bring to boiling point. Cook the baccalà for about 20 minutes with the lemon juice and the bay. Mash (mantecare) the fish with a wooden spoon and slowly add some olive oil (let the fish absorb the oil). The result will be a compact and homogenous cream with some slightly bigger pieces of fish. The amount of oil depends on the quality of the fish that you use. Season to taste. If the cream is too thick you may add some of the leftover water-lemon mix.
Traditionally, the baccalà is decorated with some parsley and eaten with fresh/grilled polenta.
Recipe found on www.baccalamantecato.com
Baccalà and Stoccafisso
The difference between Baccalà and Stoccafisso (both codfish) lies in their type of conservation: Baccalà is conserved in salt, while the Stoccafisso (dried cod) is, how the name already indicates, dried. In the Veneto Region, Baccalà indicates the dried cod that is actually used to prepare Baccalà Mantecato.
History of Baccalà and Dried Cod
Were you wondering why a Venetian dish uses a “foreign” Norwegian fish for it’s preparation? Well, it was in 1432 that a Venetian merchant, Piero Querini, stranded with his crew on the Lofoten or, more precisly, on the island Rost. Soon, he noticed that the indigenous people lived on a (strange) fish, eaten fresh, salted or even dried. He decided to bring this fish back home to Venice (stockfish (“stickfish”) in Norwegian and thus in Italian called “stoccafisso”). This dried fish, in a place like Venice where you have always access to fresh fish, was not immediately appreciated and it took another hundred years (or more precisly the Council of Trento in 1563) to spread it’s use: the Council fixed a nearly 200 days/year meat-“abstinence” and recommended the consumption of dried cod every wednesday and friday.
This paved the way of the dried cod in the Venetian kitchen, where it was soon called “baccalà”, stemming from the Portuguese “bacalhau” and the Spanish “bacalao” (“stick”).