Baccala’ with Cauliflower –  

(“Baccala’ con Cavolfiore - Baccala’ chi Vrocculi”)  

One distinctive dish from  Palermo  is the pasta with cauliflower sauce, called “Pasta chi vrocculi arriminata”. 

The sauce for this pasta is a combination of cauliflower, saffron, onions, salted anchovies, toasted pine nuts and raisins: the aroma and taste of this dish is beyond any description!

In the following recipe, a similar sauce combined with baccala’ evolves into a scent that will remind you of our grandmother’s cooking and into a tasteful savor to please the lover of this fish and the most discriminating gourmand.

The preparation requires a few days because the dry cod has to be soaked a few days ahead, but it is not a complicated dish and it is a truly a gastronomic specialty.
A 12 inch shallow saucepan is indispensable to use for cooking and as a serving vessel to bring the finished dish to the table.

 

Serves: 4 to 6

 

                               Ingredients:

 

·          1 head of cauliflower, stems discarded, washed, cut into florets and blanched

·          4 medium potatoes (about 1 lb.) thinly sliced

·          2 lb. baccala’, dried salted cod fish

·          7 tablespoons of olive oil

·          2 medium size onions finely chopped

·          3 cloves of garlic

·          ½ cup of chopped Pachino or cherry or Campari tomatoes

·          3 salted anchovies fillets rinsed.

·          2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts (you can substitute with chopped toasted almonds)

·          1/3 cup currants or raisins

·          Salt and pepper to taste

·          2 pinches of saffron, dissolved with ½ ladle of warm water

·          ¼ cup breadcrumbs

 

 

Preparation

 

The Baccala’

Prefer boneless baccala’, because the removal of the bones and skin it is not an easy job. Place the baccala’ in a 6 quart sauce pot with about 4 quarts of cold water. Soak for 48 to 72 hours, or until the salt has been removed, changing the water every 12 hours. Drain the baccala’ and cut it into chunks about 2 X 3 inches, which will be easy to do once it has been soaked. Keep it refrigerated in a covered container, until ready to use.

 

The Cauliflower and the Potatoes

Set to boil a pot of water with a teaspoon of salt. Wash and cut the cauliflower dividing it into florets. Add to the boiling water, and when the water boils again, cook for 2 minutes. Florets will be tender and in the center still a little hard. Using a slatted spoon, remove the cauliflower from water and set on side.

Using the same water, blanch the potatoes by immerging briefly into boiling water. Remove from water using a slatted spoon and set on side.

 

The Sauce 

In the sauce pan, over a high flame, heat 6 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chopped onions and the garlic cloves, sauté until translucent. Remove garlic and discard. Add the tomatoes and while stirring constantly, slowly add ½ cup of water. Reduce heat to medium and cook for about 5 minutes.

Add the cauliflower, raise heat to high and stir slowly, and cook for additional 5 minutes; in fact as the cauliflower cooks up and lightly attaches to the pan, it will acquire a unique smell and taste.

In a small plate, using a fork, mash the anchovies with 1 tablespoon of oil.

Lower the flame on the sauce, add anchovies, pine nuts and currants, and simmer for about 5 minutes

Add pepper to taste and check if salt is needed. Remove from flame and set on the side.

 

The Assembly

 Spread evenly 1/3 of the sauce at bottom of the saucepan, and  place the potatoes on top, sprinkle over some salt and pepper. Place another 1/3 of sauce over potatoes and  place the pieces of baccala’ on the top of the cauliflower sauce. Cover with remaining sauce, drizzle on top the  saffron dissolved in water and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.                                            

Bring to the table in the same saucepan in which the baccala’ was cooked and serve with plenty of sourdough bread and a light and young white wine.