Pavías de bacalao or marinated cod sticks are a staple tapa in many areas, especially in the South of Spain. Salted cod sticks are desalted, then marinated in an adobo of lemon juice and pimentón, the ubiquitous paprika condiment, then battered and fried in olive oil to crisp perfection.
In fact Pavías is short for soldaditos de Pavía, meaning Pavía soldiers. Some theories claim that the color of this tapa reminds of that of a certain hussar regiment, but there seems to be no agreement about this funny name’s origin.
As we often say of most of tapas from Spain, the quality of the ingredients is key. Use the best salted cod you can get hold of, but don’t even attempt to use fresh cod; the salting-curing process concentrates and develops the flavor of the fish and the result with fresh cod simply has nothing to do with the real thing.
- 500g (1 pound) salted cod cut into sticks
- The juice of 2 lemons
- 1 tsp sweet pimentón
- A dash of white pepper, freshly ground
- 240ml (1/2 cup) extra virgin olive oil (but not too bitter)
- 2 beaten eggs
- AP flour or chickpea flour
- Cut the fish into sticks about the thickness of your middle finger, but not too thin.
- Desalt the cod by soaking it in cold water and leave it standing in the fridge for at least 24 hours. Change the water at least a couple of times in this period.
- Prepare the marinade: in a shallow container pour the lemon juice and mix with the sweet pimentón.
- Pat dry the fish sticks and lay them on the marinade. Toss to coat. Drizzle some olive oil on the fish, cover and let stand for at least 3 hours.
- Drain the fish sticks and set aside on a colander. Discard the marinade.
- Prepare a shallow container with the beaten egg and a second one with a thick layer of flour.
- Dip the sticks in the beaten egg, turning to coat perfectly, then transfer to the flour container and toss. You can transfer them again to a clean colander to get rid of the excess flour.
- Prepare a pan with virgin olive oil, at least half inch deep. Heat to medium and fry the cod sticks in batches till golden.
Tips for perfect pavías de bacalao:
- We never tire of stressing the importance of using a good quality cod and a reasonably good olive oil. The cod has to be carefully desalted with fresh water in the fridge.
- Don’t even attempt to make pavías with fresh cod; it won’t work. The desalted fish has nothing to do with the fresh kind.
- Use a fine Spanish extra virgin olive oil of the milder varieties for frying the cod. And enjoy the result.
- Which flour is best for the coating? I myself prefer chickpea flour (very commonly used in areas of Andalusia por fried fish or pescaíto frito) because pulse flour is healthier than refined wheat flour and more nutritious. We don’t recommend using whole flours though, as the coating wouldn’t be delicate at all.
- If you prefer a proper batter for the coating you can use the same batter used for our bacalao rebozado, battered cod.
- The fish sticks should be eaten while still warm, otherwise this type of coating tends to get soggy.
These pavías de bacalao or marinated cod sticks are another way to eat cod with the juiciest and tastiest results thanks to the lemon and pimentón adobo. Enjoy them for a light brunch on a sunny noon…