Fried Baccalà: Italian Christmas Tradition

Salted cod desalinating in water.
In keeping with our family’s tradition, we had “La Vigilia” otherwise known as the feast of the seven fishes on Christmas Eve. This year, we had two other families to share in the festivities. We started the evening with a terrine of scallops and trout, smoked whitefish, Cajun barbecued shrimp, and fried baccalà, calamari and smelts. Then all 13 of us sat down to a dinner of chicory saltati (with anchovy), baked cod with roasted potatoes and olives, and linguine and clam sauce.

“Baccalà” is Italian for salt cod. Baccalà is a popular fish, especially with Italians from Calabria. In Rome, baccalà alla romana is a dish of deep-fried, battered salt-cod which is traditionally served on Christmas Eve. Baccalà dishes require that the cod be desalinated by soaking and rinsing several times to remove excess saltiness. We bought the salt cod at DeKalb Farmer’s Market and soaked/rinsed it the week before Christmas.

Fried Baccalà
1 package desalinated salt cod
1 ½ cups buttermilk
flour for dredging
vegetable oil for frying

Remove baccalà from water soak and pat dry with a paper towel. Marinate desalinated cod in buttermilk up to one hour before cooking. Heat vegetable oil about one inch deep in a heavy skillet or frying pan until a drop of liquid “sizzles” when carefully dropped in the oil (about 375 degrees). When oil is ready, take the cod from the buttermilk and dredge in flour, then slowly place the floured cod pieces in the oil four at a time and fry until golden brown. It should take about 5 minutes, turning over about half way through. Remove fish to a paper towels and salt. Serve hot with sliced lemons.