Stoccafisso Thoughts
  Food, like music and art, has the ability to bring back memories. Just as it happened to me a couple of days ago when I woke up with the desire to throw an Asian-theme party and I went on a mission to Chinatown to buy paper lanterns and dragons, spring rolls, dumplings, noodles, vegetables, chicken and fish. continue >>

Stoccafisso alla Zia
Chef Rina Magnelli
Inzimino Di Baccala’
Chef Chiara Masiero, Camillo, Florence, Italy
Spuma Di Baccala’
Chef Chiara Masiero
Portuguese Seafood Stew
Chef Bob Kinkead, Kinkead’s, Washington D.C.
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While I was strolling down Canal Street, envisioning a sensational party, my fantasies were disrupted by a strong fish odor: I was passing by those fish stores whose goods are spilled all over the sidewalks. I turned my head and, along with the usual baskets of jumbo shrimps and red snappers, I saw Stock Fishes hanging down from the ceiling. This vision sparked bittersweet memories of an incident associated with that fish.

Three years ago I paid a surprise visit to my long-distance boyfriend on his birthday. I knew that he had planned a dinner party at his house. I showed up at his office door to find him speechless, overwhelmed by joy, or so it seemed. On the way back to his country house we stopped at his aunt’s to pick up the “Stoccafisso” (his favorite fish dish) she had prepared for the party. I remember that car ride so vividly: a pan full of fish on my lap and the guy of my dreams sitting next to me. The warm summer breeze was blowing through his hair, and around us were picture perfect Chianti Hills. I took a deep breath, I was in love. As the dinner party started and his close friends arrived, I realized that one girlfriend was a little too friendly. Clearly that blond mistress had no clue who I was. Angry and dumbfounded, I dug in the Stoccafisso, which went down really well with the white wine. The fish melted in my mouth. It was creamy, soft, velvety, and had a surprising spicy aftertaste. It was so delicious that, bite-by-bite, it made the misery fade for the night. Needless to say, after this soap opera evening, my long-distance boyfriend and I broke up, but in between the screaming and shouting and slamming doors I managed to ask him for his aunt’s Stoccafisso recipe.

Stoccafisso (Stock Fish) is cod fished in the Loften Islands in Norway, which is hung on sticks to be dried in the cool, clean Northern air. When Stock Fish arrives in fish shops, it can be either whole or already cut into skinned and boned fillets. If bought whole, procedure needs Stock Fish to be soaked in water for a couple of days before cooking, during which the fish grows to twice its original weight. Stock Fish mild flavored meat is lean and firm and is perfect for light menus. My ex’s Aunt recipe says to soak it in water for two days, changing the water at least twice daily. After skinning, boning and cutting it into filets, it needs to be placed in an aluminum pan covered in milk. It then has to be seasoned with oil-salt-pepper-rosemary and marinated (oil- garlic-red peppers-parsley) anchovies prepared days in advance. The recipe says to cook it for 25 minutes in a 250 F oven. It is then finished by pouring a puree of chickpeas, carrots and onions over the filets and drizzling the plate with aromatic rosemary olive oil.

My ex’s Aunt added a Post Script to the recipe that said: “If you can’t find Stoccafisso, buy Baccala’.” Baccala’ (or Salt Fish) is a cod as well, but it’s conserved differently. While the former is simply dried out in the crisp air, the latter is sliced and preserved under salt. Stock Fish has a milder taste than Salt Fish, but generally Salt Fish can be used in Stock Fish recipes and vice-versa.

-- Elisabetta Bucci