Ingredients

5 pounds Salt Cod Fish
2 ½ pounds potatoes, peeled & cut into 1/4's
2 large leeks, cleaned well, chopped into 1/2 inch size pieces, white part only
½ pound large mushrooms cut into ¼’s
½ head celery with leaves cleaned & chopped into ½ inch pieces
½ cup salted capers rinsed and drained
½ pound large pitted green olives
2 ½ pounds onions chopped finely
3 cans San Marzano Tomatoes, pureed & 1 ½ cans of water
Olive oil
Fresh ground pepper

Directions

1. Soak salt Cod in very large pan, changing water every hour, for 24 hours, drain all water, set fish aside.
2. Place prepared mushrooms in a large frying pan with water, cook on high heat, until water turns brown. Drain water, set mushrooms aside.
3. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan, add onions and leeks, sauté until transparent.
4. Add celery to pan with onions and leeks, continuing to cook for 2 minutes.
5. Add potatoes to pan and toss with celery, leeks and onions, coating potatoes with oil. Cook 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and water.
6. Add 1 ½ teaspoon ground pepper and bring sauce to a boil. Lower heat to medium and cover pot, cooking for 5 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the potatoes. They should be slightly hard when you test them by inserting a fork.
7. Add prepared capers, mushrooms and olives and continue cooking on medium /high heat. Bring sauce to 2nd boil and remove from heat immediately. Note: The sauce can be made to this point and kept in refrigerator until ready to serve. My Grandmother Felicia would always let her sauce marinate in the” Spezza Room” overnight at this point!

When ready to serve:

8. Using a ladle, cover the bottom of Dutch oven pan with sauce and place one layer of prepared Cod Fish over sauce. Continue layering sauce and Cod Fish, ending with sauce
9. Cover Dutch oven pan and place in a pre-heated 400 degree F. oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until it begins to boil.
10. When the boiling point is reached, reduce heat to 375 degrees and continue to cook for 1 more hour. Note: Complete “oven” cook time should be 2 hours in total
11. Remove pan from oven and let Baccala rest on counter for 1 hour.

Serve with fresh Italian Bread and enjoy!

Recipe courtesy of Felicia (Ciaramitaro) Mohan, 2011.

Many Italians, especially from the southern areas of Italy, have the tradition of celebrating Christmas Eve with what they call the Feast of the Seven Fishes. The tradition followed many Italian immigrants to America, where they often increased the number and variety of fishes. Some households are known to have up to thirteen varieties every Christmas Eve.

Many Italians see Christmas as a time of “open house,” and friends and family go around tasting the different fish dishes and other Christmas treats. The world that Felicia Ciaramitaro Mohan and Safatia “The Godmother” Romeo-Theken grew up in followed this custom to the extreme, and may of their best Christmas memories are made of those visits.

Many of those who still continue the tradition and celebrate the open house, such as Felicia and Sefatia, often feature a dish made with salted cod, or baccala. As you will see by watching the video, their ideas of the recipe, which are based on their own childhood experience and memories, can be quite different.

In this case, Felicia shows her Grandmother’s recipe, made with leeks, potatoes, mushrooms, celery, green olives, onions, capers and San Marzano tomatoes. Sefatia makes it clear that this was not her recipe, or the one she grew up with, but she makes it clear that it is very good nonetheless.

In fact, if you went to different Italian households who celebrate Christmas with the fishes feast you might find a baccala dish made differently in every one. No two recipes will be exactly the same, and that is one of the things that make going from house to house every Christmas that much more interesting.

This evening, we have got the godmother of Gloucester, joining us in my kitchen. Something I've been looking forward to for a very long time. So I thank you, Sefatia, for taking time out of your schedule to come with me today.

It's my pleasure. It's my pleasure. And I've been hearing for all these years, Felicia's recipes, Felicia's recipes. Not this Felicia, her grandmother, Felicia. And I was just curious of different cultures from Italy. Because when you talk about Sicily, you have different islands in Sicily, and you have different towns. And they all have different recipes.

But the basic is the seven fishes. How we cook them, and what we do with them is totally different. Come and watch. I'm learning something new. And then I will teach my friend, who I call Giada, and I'm her Dom DeLuise, because she loves to cook and I love to eat it.

So we're off in our kitchen today. And I'll start off by taking the godmother ring off for today.

All right. This is a recipe that I grew up with, remembering all my uncles, all the men in our family joining on Christmas Eve at my grandmother's house. A recipe I can honestly tell you I did not enjoy as a child, but I've learned to appreciate as an adult.

Very, very pleased to see that the different mushrooms, the onion, the leeks, celery, and the olives. And I see some capers and sauce. Because back way when I was real young-- and I'm not old-- from Terrasini, where my mother was actually born, they would do just a plain, basic recipe. But it's the same thing, the cod.

And also, in Portugal, they would have the same thing for Christmas, the cod. And, as we all know, what is Massachusetts' fish? The cod. So sacred cod. And look at this beautiful piece of fish. Amazing.

So when you see this fish, and you feel it, it's salted. So this can stay for the longest time. You can keep it in your freezer for almost a year, technically. And what they do is, actually, you see some of the homes, the fishermen, they would actually salt it then they would hang it in their basements like this. Hang it. And when I went down there, I though that was my grandmother's stockings. But they were the cod. So it's like, OK.

So actually, after you see it hanging, you saw it that way, I never wanted to try it. But what I missed was a lot.

I picked this up yesterday, actually, the salted cod. And I got a big pan of water. I vividly remember my grandmother having a large sink in her basement. And she would fill the sink up, put all the salted cod in. And she would change the water every half hour. She actually would do it for three days.

Yes. If it's really salted, the ones that we used to hang in the basement, you really would have to do it for three days. The reason why I'm smelling it, because someone says well, you can't smell it, because it's salted. But that's what you want to smell-- the freshness of the salt.

You can. There is the difference between the stale salted cod. See how it's so easy to cut. That means it's perfectly ready.

While Sefatia cuts the fish, I'm going to go to the cooktop, and I'm going to saute, in olive oil, the onions, the leeks, and the celery. OK?

Sure. You can cut it this way. You can cut it this way. And you can actually freeze them in pieces like this. Or if you make them the chunks. Now, do you do them fillet? Because I want to respect your recipe.

We do fillet.

You do fillet.

We're going to layer it.

All right. And one day I'll teach you my recipe. It's easy and simple, so this way, while it's cooking, we can enjoy our wine. And so you'll know, the olives-- I learned a trick.

If sometimes you get some olives, and they taste differently, the best thing to do is to make your olives all taste the same when you're cooking, is leave them in white wine for an hour.

Really?

It takes the bitterness out. If you're going to make like a [INAUDIBLE] with the eggplant, or your [INAUDIBLE]. You know, when we were younger, we waited all year long, because to us, you didn't get salted cod anytime you wanted to. You didn't get the octopus.

Now you can go right to the market basket and get it. When we were younger, you waiting for the fishermen. They got it from Portugal. We had it Christmas Eve. In the tradition of Christmas Eve, as you can see, Felicia's house is always open. Her family's always been welcome everyone. The doors are always open. And everywhere else in Gloucester, its amazing.

So if you ever have leftover salted cod, don't throw it away.

Don't throw it away.

So, Sefatia, I have the onions. We have the leeks sauteing over here. In a separate pan, I put a little bit of water and the mushrooms. All we want to do is get the mushrooms to throw their first water. It's like a dark-- you'll see it. It'll turn black. Dark, dark brown. We want to discard that water before we add the mushrooms to our sauce. So that's why I have the mushrooms here in a separate pan.

On this side, I just opened two cans of San Marzano tomatoes, whole tomatoes. I'm going to puree. I'm actually using three cans, but two fit in my Cuisinart at a time. So here I have two cans. And we're just going to puree this and get this ready for the sauce.

But here, you can see how the water turns brown.

Yeah, you want to get rid of that.

We need to get rid of that. That's bitter. So we're just going to strain this. I have our three cans of San Marzano tomatoes all ready.

Oh, isn't that the best? You know what. I don't care what anyone says, the San Marzano, it's like having homemade tomato paste, or sauce together. Already mixed.

Now, Sefatia, those are expensive.

I know. But you can-- let me finish.

I'm just saying.

Girl won't even let me talk.

She was complaining earlier that my leeks were expensive.

Well, I'm just telling you. They are the best, but let me finish the substitute, Miss Giada.

What is it?

You can get the pastine kitchen ready.

Yes, you can.

$0.99. Put it in your blender. Or your little mister whatever here. But you could put in your Cuisinart, or your blender, puree, and it comes out just the same.

All right. Sefatia we're going to add the potatoes.

Isn't that great?

The colors are great.

Oh, yeah. The potatoes now go in, the leeks.

Red, white, and green. Ready? There we go. San Marzano tomatoes. At this point, we're going to add the mushrooms that have been boiled in a little bit of water, just to release the dark juices, the bitterness of the mushrooms. And we have one pound of pitted green olives.

And my capers. Sefatia is dying, I'm putting capers in this. But we're putting capers, because my grandmother Felicia, she put capers. That's salted capers, rinsed a little bit.

And they're not organic. You can smell. You can smell the leeks and the onions. It's amazing.

Yeah, it's good.

And even though I don't do the same tradition, but this is great tradition. It is a great one. You know what, this is like your grandmother knew gourmet before gourmet was around.

She was the best cook in the--

Yeah, that's amazing. I mean, this is in a meal itself. And this is just one of the things we do for Christmas even. Just one. And we add the olives.

We're going to add the olives.

See, I've been really good. The reason why I'm this big, and she's that small, and we're both good cooks. She don't taste. She measures. I taste.

Here we go.

Now, right now if you see, everything's still raw. And if you see, it's like a fisherman's stew. But once it slowly cooks-- and how long do you cook it for?

Two hours at 400 degrees. My grandmother would take the [INAUDIBLE] and she would layer some on the bottom of the pan, put some fish, and keep layering until it was filled. Put it in a 400 degree oven.

Once it came to a boil in the 400 degree oven, she would turn the heat down to 350, and continue cooking it. The total cook time was exactly two hours. In two hours, it was done.

That's a smart lady. Put it in the oven. This way, you can always have a glass of wine. Smart.

Exactly. And then, when she would take it out of the oven, she would let it rest on the counter for a little while.

The best thing about and the salted cod, because you can eat it now, you can eat it later. I mean, it can be rewarmed over and over and over. You can eat it cold. And you would. Because how many of us, on Christmas Eve, go to bed?

Not many. Not if you're entertaining the next day.

Who's playing cards? Who's having a good time? Even the kids, they're running around. The only time is like, all right, the kids, we need a break. Santa's coming, and then they're all in bed. And then we don't go to bed.

All right. We've got a little bit there.

I love green olives, don't you?

Love them. And then you'll put the fish.

And the remember, we've soaked this fish. We've changed the water several times. My grandmother would seriously be soaking it for three days. She would actually make this sauce the day before, and then put it in the [INAUDIBLE] room. So I saw both ends of the fishing industry.

Yeah. You were very lucky.

And we were lucky.

Well, then you appreciate both ends. You appreciate the people who were working hard, and had to go fishing. And you saw what they had to endure, and their families. And you saw what it took to actually get ready to go fishing.

Yeah.

You know, when you're--

[INTERPOSING VOICES]

Well, my cousins-- my cousin's on the Captain Cosmo. My cousins, their father, he was out to sea for a long time. And unfortunately, obviously, was lost at sea. But that's why my grandfather started the family business the Captain Johnson's, because he wanted his boys to be home with their families. And I was lucky.

This is amazing. It really is. You know what. See, you don't have to keep with the old tradition. Because when I first walked in, I had this look like, oh, come on, Felicia. That wasn't-- but you know what, Felicia. I must say, I really am enjoying myself. New ideas, new things to brighten things up, to change it. But yet, I'm saying, she's going to ruin my tradition. It's the salted cod. But no, you didn't.

Thank you.

They came out delicious. It looks and smells fantastic. And it's going to be amazing to eat that. You put that on the table, everyone's going to be family. Get the--

Oh, get the big chunks of bread.

The bread! The wine! And off we go.

We got to [FOREIGN LANGUAGE] the bread.

Oh, I love that. [FOREIGN LANGUAGE] the bread means you've got to dip the bread.

Dip it in and eat it.

Dip the bread.

Wow. Oh, my God. This is scrumptious.

We did good, Sefatia.

I'm sorry. I overflowed your stuff.

That's OK.

I never do a little bit. I always do [FOREIGN LANGUAGE]. It overlaps. But it's the best thing, because when you can smell it, you can see it, and you've got to try to.

Smells like heaven.

Oh, heaven. I'm so glad we cooked in your kitchen.

Me too.

You get to wash the dishes.

Thanks.

No, you've been a great host.

I don't mind. Thank you for coming, Sefatia.

This is amazing. I've learned something new. It really is. Look at that, with all-- all these olives, and the cod. Perfectly cooked. I don't want to squish too hard. Right there, with the capers.

All right. We're going to do it rough style, you know.

Oh, yeah. Oh, I mean look at that. Look at that. Let's try.

We do a good job here. I'm just going to--

Break that apart. Don't be dainty, honey. I got the [INAUDIBLE]. We always fight for this.

I'm dainty. All right. We've got [FOREIGN LANGUAGE] together.

It's real, but not organic.

I didn't tell you?

No. You didn't make it, honey, did you? Let's see. Oh.

Yeah. Aren't those leeks worth the--

All right. We'll give you the leeks.

The leeks. She was having a heart attack over the leeks.

Can you give me the Trader Joe basil?

I will give you the Trader Joe basil. Truce. That is delicious, isn't it? But I want an olive. You can really taste the cod fish. It's not salty.

And it's not fishy. That's the perfect part about it.

Not fishy.

I really like it. Isn't that terrible that when we were younger, we only ate bread. Now we eat the whole thing. It's out of this world.

But you know, I'm not going to tell my kids how good it really is. So I can enjoy it for a few more years, until they get to adulthood.

Hey, kids! Your mom's baccala is ready!

[LAUGHTER]

Gotcha!

Baccala Italian Style Codfish
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