Spanish chefs will “deep-fry anything in olive oil,” said José Andrés in Made in Spain (Clarkson Potter). Buñuelos, he notes, is a term that usually applies to deep-fried dough, including some desserts. But his Buñuelos de Bacalao is a savory and sophisticated fish dish. For this version of fritters made with salt cod, Andrés notes, “it is important to use the best-quality salt cod you can find.” Though good salt cod can be expensive, it is “generally of better quality than most fresh cod.” If you’re able to find some with the salt already removed, you can skip the long soaking period at the start of this recipe.
Recipe of the week
Buñuelos de Bacalao
1¼ lbs salt cod
1¼ lbs russet potatoes, peeled and boiled
4½ cups Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp minced garlic
1 cup all-purpose flour
5 large eggs
1 tsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
¼ tsp ground white pepper
Sea salt to taste
2 egg whites
Put the cod in a large bowl, skin side up. Cover with water and refrigerate for 36 hours, changing the water at least 3 times to remove the salt. Each time you change the water, keep about one-third of the previous batch of soaking liquid in the bowl so the fish retains some of the salty flavor. (The soaking time needed to release the salt from the fish varies depending on the thickness of your salt cod.) Drain the cod and pat dry with a paper towel.
In a medium sauté pan, bring ½ cup water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the cod and cook until tender and easy to break apart with the back of a wooden spoon, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cod to a plate and cool. Reserve the cod cooking water. When the cod is cool enough to handle, shred it with your fingers and set aside.
Purée the potatoes with a potato masher or in a standing kitchen mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and set aside. Pour the reserved cod cooking water and ½ cup of the olive oil into a medium pot, add the garlic, and heat over medium-low heat for 1 minute. Add the flour and puréed potatoes, and mix well with a wooden spoon. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the eggs, 1 at a time. Then fold in the parsley and shredded cod until well combined. Add the pepper and salt to taste. Lightly whisk the egg whites into a light foam in a separate bowl and fold them into the cod-potato mixture. Refrigerate the mixture, covered, for 2 hours or overnight.
Heat the remaining 4 cups olive oil in a pot to 325 degrees (measured on a candy thermometer). Working in batches, carefully drop tablespoon-size scoops of the mixture into the hot oil and fry until golden, 3 to 4 minutes, turning often. Transfer the fritters to a paper towel–lined plate to drain. (The fritters should remain a little moist inside; overcooked fritters will be very dry.) Allow the oil to return to 325 degrees between batches. Season with salt and serve warm. Serves 4.