This is a classic Spanish salt cod recipe with a thick garlic, olive oil and chili sauce: it’s also known as bacalao al pil pil in Spain!
I am a huge salt cod fan.
How about you?
Do you like salt cod?
Bacalao al pil pil is a Spanish recipe that I love to bits. The first time I tasted it was in Sevilla, in a restaurant Baco. You might think: spicy fish! However: pil pil doesn’t mean spicy.
As far as I know it refers to the ingredients: olive oil and garlic.
The tricky part here is making the sauce.
Best Bacalao al Pil Pil (Spanish Salt Cod)
I will be very honest with you: my first 2 attempts failed miserably.
And I still mess it up half of the times I prepare it.
The first time the oil wouldn’t thicken at all. I whisked it until my arm almost fell off. Then the second time the hubs came to my rescue and prepared an egg yolk based sauce with the lukewarm garlic oil, making it into a kind of mayo.
Which wasn’t bad at all.
Look, here’s how it works.
Tricky Pil Pil Sauce
While the salt cod poaches, it releases a natural collagen and that is what makes the sauce thicken while whisking it. I guess maybe I added too much oil in the beginning. The ratio between the oil and collagen might have been the mistake.
Anyway, it all worked out well this time. But still it took me quite some time, about half an hour.
I saw some chefs on YouTube whisk the oil patiently using a kind of small fine sieve which is apparently the traditional way of preparing the sauce.
Another trick if the sauce is failing: add a pinch of flour or any kind of starch to it. Or tip the whole lot in a high cup and beat it using a hand mixer.
Apparently that sometimes helps as well.
Do you love salt cod recipes?
Then also check out my salt cod salad!
Best Spanish Bacalao al Pil Pil Recipe
This is a classic Spanish salt cod recipe with a thick garlic, olive oil and chili sauce: also known as bacalao al pil pil!
- 2 salt cod steaks, fresh or frozen
- 4 medium garlic cloves sliced
- 1 red chili
- ½ cup olive oil (120 ml)
Put the salt cod in a baking dish (or another large container) and add tap water until the fish is fully submerged. Let the cod soak for at least 8 hours in the fridge to get rid of the salt. Refresh the water twice.
Then discard the salty water and pat the fish dry with kitchen paper.
Pour the olive oil in a medium non-stick pan. Add the garlic and red chili.
Place the pan over medium-low heat. Gently simmer the garlic and pepper in the warm oil for 4 minutes until the garlic is golden. Don’t let it burn! Then remove the fried garlic and chili. Keep it for garnish later.
Turn the heat up to medium and add the salt cod steaks (skin side down) to the hot oil.
Simmer the cod for 10 minutes on one side. Don’t turn them over.
Then remove the cod and place them on a plate. Cover with tinfoil to keep them warm. Take the pan off the heat and let the olive oil cool down. Then pour the oil in a high cup but leave a thin layer of it in the pan.
With a balloon whisk, whisk the olive oil until it starts to look a little pale.
Then little by little add teaspoons of the remaining oil you put a side. Add a little flour if necessary. In the end you should get a creamy sauce. This can take about half an hour.
Check the seasoning and add pepper and salt to taste. Place the cooked salted cod steaks onto plates and cover with the sauce. Sprinkle with the fried garlic and crumbled red pepper. Serve immediately.