Because I was under the weather, I had not had an opportunity to finish posting all the recipes for the 24, 24, 24 event I hosted a bit over 2 weeks ago. It was an ambitious menu, to say the least. Every dish was better than the next, I would really have a tough time picking one as my hands down favorite.
This one came representing the New England region and I must admit I was surprised by the use of salt cod. I couldn’t tell you why exactly, because as I think about it, it makes perfect sense. But it still caught me by surprise. The other thing I liked about it was the way the cod was used. As a native Panamanian I’m used to seeing cod in more ‘creole’ presentations. So this was different a change, and one that I enjoyed thoroughly.
I found the recipe on Chow.com. I prepared it as instructed for the night of the event, but we had some of the cod and bean base leftover and I revisited and tweaked the recipe a few days later. So here’s my final rendition of it.
This is a 2-day dish: on day 1 you’ll soak/rehydrate the cod and beans, on day 2 you can put it all together. Plan ahead. *Also, the recipe called for Manila clams which I didn’t find and substituted with Little Necks.
1/2 lb salt cod
2 cps dried white beans (such as Great Northern or cannellini beans)
2 cloves garlic, whole
1 tbsp kosher salt
4 cps whole milk
1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1/3 cp bacon or salt pork, chopped
2 tsp garlic, minced (about 2 cloves)
1/2 cp carrot, diced (about 1 large carrot)
1 1/2 cps leeks, chopped
1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 lb Manila clams, scrubbed*
1 1/2 cps dry white wine
1/2 tsp lemon zest, grated
3 tbsp Italian parsley, finely chopped
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
The day before, rinse the salt cod under cool water, then place it in a large glass or plastic mixing bowl with enough cold water to cover and soak overnight in the refrigerator, changing the water 2 or 3 times. Put beans in another bowl, sort and rinse them, then cover them with cold water, and let soak for 24 hours in the refrigerator.
The next day, drain and rinse beans. Transfer them to a medium saucepan and add the whole garlic cloves and fresh cold water to cover. Bring to a simmer and cook gently, being mindful not to boil them. It will take about 40 minutes for them to be cooked through. Once the beans have softened, season them with sea salt & pepper. Remove the garlic cloves and strain the beans but reserve about 1-2 cps of the cooking liquid.
To prep the cod: drain the water it’s been soaking in and transfer to a saucepan. Add milk, peppercorns, and bay leaves and simmer over medium-low heat until fish is soft and flaky, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat, strain fish from the pan, and place in a bowl. Use a fork to flake cod into bite-size pieces. Discard milk and seasonings.
Rinse the saucepan and heat it over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook just long enough to render some of its fat, you don’t want to brown it. Then add the garlic, carrots, leeks, and thyme and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Deglaze the pan with some of the wine, making sure to release all the drippings stuck at the bottom. Add the rest of the wine, cod, veggies and beans and allow it come to a slow boil. Add clams and wine, stir, and cover. Cook just until clams open, about 7 to 10 minutes. (Discard any clams that do not open.)
After all the clams have opened, add the lemon zest and parsley and stir; add some of the bean-cooking liquid if the stew seems too thick. Ladle stew into small bowls, drizzle with olive oil, and serve with crusty bread.