bacalao al pil pil recipe / receta

(de-salted cod cooked in extra virgin olive oil, garlic and chili)

Servings:  4
Prep Time:  15 with pre desalted bacalao (cod) (plus three days to desalt the bacalao)
Cook Time:  80 mins (or until it is ready)
ready steady cook - the ingreients for bacalao al pil-pilIngredients / receta:
4 pieces of salt bacalao ( 4x4 inches) (or half to a Kilo of kokotxas, cod throats)
Estimate enough extra virgin olive oil to reach close to the top of the bacalao, when put in a pan.
If you have choice 1 degree acidity oil is perfect.
Under no circumstances use any other oil.
The pan should be about 10 inches diameter, in other words just big enough to fit in the bacalao.
9 coves of garlic
2 dried chilies
A couple of small fresh green pimentos (if available).
A bottle of Tabasco

In the Basque Country this is thought to be a difficult dish or receta to prepare, and if you can manage it you're a great chef. In reality, if you have had the patience to read and follow this recipe you'll succeed no problem & the great chef accolade (IMHO) means the mug who will stand at the cooker for over an hour rotating a pan of bacalao and olive oil.

This recipe works very well with cocochas or kokotxas (Spanish / Basque). If you don't know, these are the chins and throats of the bacalao, or Hake. V-shaped and V-expensive. 

It was kokotxas al pil-pil that were served to General Franco and Adolph Hitler, when they had their historic (infamous) meeting on a train in Hendaye. The following recipe is passed on (with salted bacalao substituted) genuinely from the person who cooked it that very day. When Franco was asked if he were wise to have a Basque chef, he said 'the quality of the cooking was worth the risk, sadly his favorite holiday resort was Donostia (San Sebastian)... the creme de la creme of Basque holiday seaside destinations. Surprisingly although the entire golden sand beached bay is surround by an ever sprawling town, it still has a blue flag beech. Which for those who don't know is the european standard for clean water and a pollution free experience.

(Many years before Durango Kafe Antzokia was established) It is said that the recipe itself was invented in 1874 during the siege of Bilbao. A merchant (prior to the siege) had ordered 20,000 pieces of salted bacalao from Scandinavia. Due to a clerical error he was accidentally delivered something in the region of 200,000 pieces. Before he had a chance to sort out the problem the siege was raised. As food stocks dwindled, pretty much all there was left in the communal larder was olive oil, salted bacalao and garlic. People got pretty inventive and low and behold "bacalao al pil pil".

This is the genuine and only way to make "bacalao al pil pil", accept no substitutes =8-)

Pil-Pil is Basque for bubbling, and is onomatopoeic i.e. it sounds like that which it describes.

"Plateruena" is Basque or Euskera for plate maker - we hope you enjoy this plate or dish as would be said in English and the others featured on this recipe site. For we are the platemakers, and we are the eaters of plates!

the garlic is ready to fry till golden brown Prep Notes:
Cut the salted bacalao into 4x4 pieces.

To de-salt the bacalao (cod) put it into half a gallon of water, and in the fridge for 2 days. Change the water every 8 hours; at the very least three times, this is essential otherwise it just goes a bit funky.

Taste the bacalao (cod), when it has lost most of it's salt, it is ready.

Remove any bones you may find, or alternatively warn the diners that there may be bones.

Slice the garlic crossways

the continuing plateruena bacalao al pil pil garlic method of frying of the garlicInstructions:
Fry the garlic until golden in the olive oil, along with the chili and the pimentos (about a quarter of a litre of oil will probably be about right). When the garlic is golden remove from the heat and take-out all solid matter. Put the Garlic and chilies to one side, you have finished with the pimentos so sprinkle them with a little sea salt and eat as a snack while you wait for the oil to cool down.

golden brown bacalao al pil pil garlic ready to put to one side

testing the temperature of the bacalao al pil pil extra virgin olive oil in the pan

When the oil is cool enough for you to dip your finger in without pain place the desalted bacalao (cod) with its skin face upwards. Be sure that it does not start to fry.

here we see two pieces of cod or bacalao ready to be turned into pil pil - using this authentoc pil pil recipe

This is where the funs starts (a.k.a the hard bit). The objective is to keep the oil hot, but not frying, so you need to put a napkin, or cloth on your work top, next to the cooker. Make sure that the heat on the cooker is low. Place the pan on the napkin, and taking it with one hand at twelve o'clock and the other at six, move it around in a circular motion, as if tracing the edge of a circle, not spinning it!!

see the Plateruena  method in video please click here (9mbs)

This should result in a wave of olive oil running round the pan, and lapping over the top of the bacalao. You can also push the pan forwards and backwards, and change rotation from clockwise to anti clock wise.

The aim being to get the oil slopping over the bacalao, don't wear your best clothes and do wear an apron, as you are quite likely to get a bit aggressive with the pan during the three quarters of an hour or so that it takes to get the end result.

Alternate with putting the pan on the heat and rotating it, and then back on to the cloth. The moment it starts bubbling, take it off the heat urgently, otherwise it will spoil. It is a fine line, too cold is ineffective and too hot a disaster.

As time passes you will notice that globs of  'stuff' are appearing in the oil, this is the gelatine from the fish, most is in the skin which is why you are trying to bath the skin in the oil.

The movement will allow the gelatine and the oil to emulsify, it takes ages and if you have too much oil to bacalao it takes even longer.

the pil pil sauce can be seen to be appearing

Don't give up, sooner or later you will notice that the 'globs' are starting to turn into a homogenized sauce, at this point return the garlic to the pan. You do not need the garlic to make the pil pil sauce, but it seems a shame to leave it sitting there. Save eight pieces for a garnish when served.

You can leave the bacalao to rest (off the heat) for 10 mins or more, and it does quite a bit of the work by itself.

To see the continuing method for authentic basque bacalao al pil pil from Plateruena please click here (6mbs)

Keep rotating on and off the heat until such time as you have what some people describe as a light mayonnaise consistency sauce, most if not all of the garlic, (if having been thinly enough sliced and goldened properly), should have dissolved, this is part of the magic of the dish. Taste the sauce, if you have soaked the bacalao for a little too long it may require you to add a little sea salt, the dish is intended to be salty 'not stupidly so' but too little salt makes for a pretty tasteless serving.

If you have problems getting the pil pil sauce to thicken, give it a little more heat, you may be being just a bit too cautious.

If the sauce starts to turn into meringue texture, you've basically over cooked the bacalao al pil pil..

the plateruena bacalao al pil pil is nearly ready to serve

It is a crime to serve bacalao al pil pil anything other than piping hot, so at the end of the process put it on the heat and keep agitating it until hot all the way through.

To see the end of the method for the perfect Plateruena bacalao al pil pil please click here for the video (2.24mbs)

there it is the bacalao al pil pil served on the plate, ready to eat with crusty bread

Serve with a couple of slices of golden garlic delicately placed on the top of the bacalao.

Have a bottle of Tabasco sauce available, and plenty of crusty bread.

Don't swamp each plate of bacalao al pil pil with the sauce, people will ask for more if they like it. That's the receta.
courtesy of the durango platemakers.