The Christmas meal in Dalmatia nearly always includes bakalar, a simple stew of dried cod and potatoes. It’s beyond delectable. The Croatian word bakalar is not only the name of the dish, but also of the fish. It’s a derivation of bacalao, the Spanish word for cod. The highly prized cod fish is not available from the Adriatic Sea, so it’s imported to Croatia in its durable, salted and dried form from various colder-water locales, often Norway. It’s assumed that bakalar was introduced to Croatia by Dalmatian sailors who’d been on ships in the North Atlantic, and it’s now a tradition.
1 dried salt cod
1 kg potatoes, peeled and thick sliced
2 large onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bouquet fresh parsley, roughly chopped
1/4 L olive oil
salt, pepper to taste
Wash the salt cod well and soak overnight in water. Wash again, then cover with fresh water in a large pot and cook on a low flame until tender, but not falling apart (5-6 hours). Remove the cod from the water (which you will reserve), lay it on a clean cutting board and carefully remove the bones, taking care to keep the meat in large pieces. Quickly saute the onion, garlic and parsley in olive oil in the cooking pot, then add the potatoes and stir until coated with oil. Add the reserved cooking water and simmer the potatoes until tender, then return the cod meat to the pot. Simmer slowly for an additional 20-30 minutes without stirring. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with freshly baked crusty bread for soaking up the broth.