SERVES 4 TO 6
Gloucester, Massachusetts, is a fishing community and home to nearly thirty-two thousand Sicilians who settled there to make their living from the sea much as they had done in their native Sicily. The life of a fisherman is physically exhausting and very dangerous, as evidenced by the community's monuments dedicated to fisherman.
For an introductory segment on fresh codfish for one of my programs, I traveled to Gloucester to cook with Angela Orlando Sanfilippo, president and CEO of the Fishermen's Wives Association. Angela was born in Porticello, Sicily, and is an expert on all kinds of fish and seafood cookery. She is a national spokesperson and activist for reform and fairness in the fishing industry.
One of her most requested recipes is baccala in bianco (fresh codfish stew). She begins with a soffritto, a sauté of onions and potatoes that becomes the base for a stew in which water is the only liquid. Pine nuts and raisins, two typical ingredients of many Sicilian dishes, are added when the stew is served.
When I sampled the dish, I knew it would become a favorite. The broth was light, the fish meaty and delicate, and the seasonings perfect. The dish can also be made with dried and rehydrated codfish, but the taste will be very different.
1/2 cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1 large white onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup minced Italian parsley
4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
3 cups hot water
3 pounds fresh cod fillets, cut into chunks with skin attached
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup raisins
Fine salt to taste
Grinding of coarse black pepper
In a soup pot heat the olive oil, stir in the onions, and cook over medium heat until they are wilted down but not browned. Stir in the parsley and potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden brown.
Add the water and stir the ingredients. Place the codfish chunks on top of the mixture and sprinkle on the pine nuts and raisins. Cover the pot and allow to cook for 15 minutes. Uncover the pot, stir the ingredients carefully, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Ladle the fish into soup bowls and serve immediately.
This recipe is from CIAO ITALIA - BRINGING ITALY HOME by Mary Ann Esposito, published by St. Martin's Press in 2001.
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