Bacalao rebozado or battered cod is one of the most typical tapas from Madrid although it is also common in some areas of Andalusia. Chunks of cod are battered and fried and sometimes served accompanied by roasted red pepper or piquillo pepper. In this fashion the cod fritters are called soldaditos de Pavía.
The name of such peculiar tapa apparently arises from the color similarity to the red-yellow uniform of the Spanish Hussars, soldaditos meaning little soldiers. This tapa is said to originate in a well-known centenary tavern, at no. 12 Tetuán Street in Madrid, Casa Labra. Cod in all manners is their specialty, in croquettes or battered, as in today’s recipe.
In Spain several different types of cod can be found in the market and used for making battered cod:
Salt-cured cod, a staple food in the past, is recommended as it gives the best texture and consistency to the final result. Besides being easier to preserve, the cured fish develops a deeper and more concentrated flavor that the fresh variety lacks.
In Spain salted cod can be found in a variety of cuts, like meat: suprêmes, fillets and shreds. We don’t expect to find this assortment everywhere in the world, but all the same, should you have the chance to chose among several types the ideal fish cut is suprême. Suprêmes are juicy pieces of fish meat usually without fishbones, which makes them more agreeable to eat.
Our recipe follows Casa Labra’s formula although maybe we’ll lack their special and personal touch…
- 2,2 pounds (1 kg) desalted cod
- ½ pound (225 g) bread flour
- 0,6 pounds (275 g) milk
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1½ tsp salt
- Plenty of good olive oil for deep-frying
- Wash the salted cod in plenty of cold water.
- Place the pieces in a container, preferably glass, and cover in very cold water.
- Place a lid on the container and place in refrigerator for 36-48 hours, depending on the size of the pieces.
- Once the cod is desalted, drain well the excess of water and prepare the batter.
- During the desalting, water needs to be renewed several times to help further reduce the salinity. Renew the water 4 times a day, in our case this means 8 water changes in 48 hours.
- In a medium bowl add the flour along with the salt and mix with a spatula.
- Pour the water and mix to get a homogeneous batter.
- Add the baking powder and stir again until fully integrated. Beat with a balloon whisk trying to whip air into the mixture.
- Cover with film and let the batter rest for 15 minutes.
- Pour the olive oil in a pan deep enough for frying, at least 2 inches deep of oil. Heat to medium with care not to overheat the oil, up to 170º-180ºC (338º- 356ºF). The olive oil must never give up smoke.
- Dip the cod first in the flour, removing excess, and then in the batter.
- Dip the battered cod in the hot oil and fry for 1½-2 minutes on each side. The batter coating will turn golden and crunchy.
- Remove the cod with a slotted spoon and place on a colander over a bowl to remove the excess olive oil.
- Repeat the process with the remaining pieces of cod.
- Serve the cod piping hot or warm.
Tips on bacalao rebozado or battered cod
- Very cold water must be used in desalting the cod, as it helps firming the fish pieces and prevents them from opening during desalting.
- During the desalting process the cod must always be kept in the refrigerator, except while renewing the water, otherwise it could ferment and spoil.
- Both plain flour/AP flour and strong flour/bread flour can be used to make the batter. Depending on which one we use, the fried batter will be crispier or softer; strong flour/bread flour makes for a crispier batter.
- Depending on the flour you use, the amount of milk to be added may vary. When using AP flour/plain flour less milk will be needed to reach the desired consistency than if using bread flour/strong flour. This is due to their different absorption capacity.
- Often plain beaten egg is used for basting the cod instead of the flour-milk batter; do as you please. Our recipe doesn’t use eggs though. According to Miguel Ángel Velasco, chef of Casa Juanico in Zaragoza, the use of the egg in the batter prevents the exit of the juices, which are cooked inside and tend to crystallize, as well as slightly masks the flavor of the fish.
- Both sunflower oil and mild olive oil can be used for deep-frying, so as not to impart too much flavor to the fritters.
- It is important that the oil temperature stays around 170º-180ºC (338º- 356ºF), not higher. Otherwise the batter layer will burn before the cod cooks through. On the other hand if the temperature is too low the cod will absorb a lot of oil and its texture will be different, not firm enough.
- The cooking time of the cod must not be exceeded; it should be around 3-4 minutes at the specified temperature for best results.
- Cod can be eaten both freshly made and cold, but always on the same day it was made.
This tasty tapa does not need much more accompaniment to be fully enjoyable. There is an order that was often heard in some bars though: —¡Unos bacalaítos y unas cañas!— Some battered cod and a glass of beer! So have a cold beer along this bacalao rebozado and… enjoy!