Foodie Joust: Bacalao Casserole

Jen, from The Leftover Queen, has a monthly contest featuring 3 predetermined ingredients. She calls it the Royal Foodie Joust. For February, the ingredients are fish, coconut milk and nutmeg. I simply had to enter. Those are 3 of my favorite ingredients.

Coconut milk is ever present in Panamanian & Caribbean cuisine, besides that, I LOVE the flavor it imparts to food.
Fish–well, I come from a country which name means ‘abundance of fish’. Need I say more?

Nutmeg. I love its smoky, sweet aroma and taste.

There’s a dish my mom prepares, a casserole of sorts. She recently reminded me of it and I’ve had it on my to do list for a few months. Turns out, I’ll be using my mom’s basic dish, then tweaking it to fit the joust.

Her dish calls for bacalao (salted dry cod), potatoes and a bĂ©chamel sauce. Can you guess? Instead of bĂ©chamel, I’m using coconut milk, yeah baby, yeah! So, without further, you know, babbling, here’s the recipe.

Bacalao Casserole

1 lb bacalao (dry salt cod)
1 onion, sliced
1 red pepper, chopped
3 slices bacon, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp habanero sauce (optional)
1/4 cp white wine
1 cp coconut milk
1 cp water
1/2 tsp nutmeg
6 potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 slices bacon, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil, approx
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cp panko crumbs
1/2 cp bread crumbs

First you need to reconstitute the bacalao. Reconstitute is a fancy way of saying hydrate. Put the cod in a bowl and add boiling water, let it seep for about 15 minutes. Drain water and repeat the process once more or until the fish feels pliable. Drain and shred the fish. Set aside.

I weighed the contents of a 1lb container, it only weighed 12ozs

In a medium skillet, fry the bacon over medium-high heat just enough to render the fat and give it a bit of color. Add the onion and cook until translucent, then add the red pepper. Cook until softened. Add the bacalao, garlic and habanero sauce, stir until all the ingredients are incorporated.

Add the wine and cook it down until evaporated, this will only take a minute or two since the pan is quite hot. Once the wine has evaporated, add the coconut milk, water and nutmeg. Stir and bring it to a boil, then turn down the temperature to a simmer and cook covered for about 20 minutes. The flavor of the coconut milk intensifies overnight, so I did this part of the recipe the day before I served the dish.

Preheat oven to 375°.
Lightly brown the bacon in a skillet, remove and drain. You want your potatoes cubed pretty small. Add enough oil to the skillet to be able to brown the potatoes. Fry the potatoes in 2 batches. Once you have browned the first batch, transfer them to an ovenproof dish. Finish the rest of the potatoes, then mix in the bacon right into the baking dish.

In the same skillet, melt the butter and add the breadcrumbs, stir them frequently until lightly browned. Set aside.

Add the bacalao mixture over the potatoes, then top the potatoes with the breadcrumbs. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes. Allow it to sit for 10 minutes before serving. This would go beautifully with tajadas.

By the way, come check out the other entries and vote for me!!! Rock the Vote!

That’s it. Enjoy!

Cookingly yours,

9 thoughts on “Foodie Joust: Bacalao Casserole

  1. Oh my gosh, I think we were sisters in another life, I swear! Every dish you post looks so delicious to me, so familiar somehow. The baccala, I love it. It’s one of our Christmas Eve Feast fishes. Never did the casserole version but I will be now. Good luck with the joust!

  2. Thanks, Kathy. How do you prepare yours? I love bacalao, haven’t had a recipe I didn’t like yet. Once in Barcelona I had bacalao in a honey sauce, I’ve looked high and low for a recipe with no luck. It seemed to have been breaded and fried, then dunked in the sauce…, maybe I should give that a try. I skeered!

  3. Drool, drool, drool! This sounds like heaven! I love the way you incorporated all the Joust ingredients into a dish that you already know and love – that is so cool! Best of luck – and thanks for participating! 🙂

  4. Hey, you! Thanks! I’ll have to let my mom I tampered with her recipe. Actually, she does this casserole with the bechamel, but then she makes an All-in-One rice dish which has the coconut milk. It really wasn’t all that ingenius, but I’ll pretend anyway. Thanks for stopping by!

    • I wouldn’t say this specific incarnation is a common Caribbean/Latin dish, but the use of bacalao is. You’ll usually find it stewed in a Creole-like sauce and also made into fritters, which I’ll post one of these days. Adding coconut milk to ‘everyday’ ingredients is a common practice in those areas. I really think my mom sorta threw this together and it stuck.

    • That’s a good and tough question, you made me ponder it. I think it could work with fresh seafood/fish, but I’m worried about overcooking it. For some reason, salmon seems to be a good alternative, but I would ask that you allow me to try it before I commit to that suggestion. The other thought would be to use fresh fish, even shrimp, topping it with the crumbs and broiling it for just a couple minutes. That wouldn’t affect the doneness of the the fish too much.

      That said, you could sub the cod for chicken or even pork. It would need to cook a bit longer in the coconut milk but it would work just as well. I will try it with the fresh seafood and will report back.

      Thanks for visiting!

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