Our cookbook of the week is Tu Casa Mi Casa: Mexican Recipes for the Home Cook by acclaimed chef Enrique Olvera with Luis Arellano, Gonzalo Goût and Daniela Soto-Innes. Over the next two days, we’ll feature another recipe from the book and an interview with its author.
To try another recipe from the book, check out: Herb guacamole.
Veracruz-style cod (bacalao a la veracruzana) is a beloved dish from Enrique Olvera’s family table. “Our mother has made it for us since we can remember. I have now taken my mother’s recipe, made it my own, and hope my children will do the same,” he writes.
With its amalgamation of Mediterranean (olives, capers) and Mexican (tomatoes, potatoes) ingredients, and salt cod – an all-important resource in the triangular trade between North America, Great Britain and the Caribbean – the dish represents cultural exchange.
“People don’t realize that with time, things become part of who you are. Now, if you asked anyone if you could have Mexican food without cilantro they’d say no, and it comes from Asia,” says Olvera.
“Food migration is part of our culture, and it’s been a very successful and peaceful migration. Whereas with the conquista (conquest), when the Spanish came in, there were a lot of conflicts – social, political – in food, that mix, that melting pot was almost natural because it decanted itself and it was not violent. I think it’s a good way of understanding migration.”
Bacalao a la veracruzana
Preparation: 35 minutes, plus overnight soaking
Cooking time: 40 minutes
1/2 lb (225 g) salt cod, no bones or skin
4 tbsp (60 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup (85 g) sliced white onion
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
10 very ripe plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 small bunch fresh parsley leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 lb (225 g) baby potatoes or fingerlings, cut into bite-size pieces
4 pickled banana peppers
1 red bell pepper, sliced
4 tbsp (60 mL) pitted green olives
4 tbsp (60 mL) capers or caper berries
4 bay leaves
2 lemons, sliced
1/2 cup (125 mL) blanched flaked almonds
To de-salt the cod, soak it in plenty of water for at least 12 hours, but for up to 2 days if possible, changing and discarding the water at least 3 times in the process.
In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and garlic and fry until starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until they start to break down, about 10 minutes. Reduce to a simmer and add the cod and the rest of the ingredients. Cover and cook until the potatoes are cooked through, 20–30 minutes. Add water if the liquid is evaporating too quickly, it should be soupy. Taste for salt and adjust if necessary, though it probably won’t need any because of the salt cod. Top with chopped parsley.
Store any leftovers in an airtight container or zip-seal bag in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or the freezer for up to 2 months. Just add a bit of water to reheat.
Adapted from Tu Casa Mi Casa: Mexican Recipes for the Home Cook by Enrique Olvera with Luis Arellano, Gonzalo Goût, Daniela Soto-Innes, and with a foreword by Peter Meehan (Phaidon, $49.95, March 27, 2019)