It always makes my heart sing when I cook up Puerto Rican food and my husband comments that it makes him feel like his mom's home cooking. I am so grateful to have these dishes in my arsenal and I love sharing them with you, too!
My print cookbook Latin American Paleo Cooking does favor Puerto Rican recipes more than other countries (which makes sense since my Puerto Rican mother-in-law is a contributor!), so if you like this you definitely want to pre-order now! The price recently dropped a TON and when you pre-order with Amazon, you lock in the lowest price between when you order and release date, and aren't charged until release date (August 22nd, day after the solar eclipse!! ☀︎😮)
What is Bacalao?
If you are familiar with bacalao, you're already excited. But if you're not, let me fill you in on this traditional ingredient.
Bacalao, also known as salt cod, is cod that has been preserved by drying and salting the fish. This is an ancient practice that began in Northern Europe hundreds of years ago and made its way to the Caribbean likely due to the slave trade. It is a much loved ingredient in many cuisines throughout Europe and Latin America.
Milagros, my mother-in-law, told me that growing up in the mountainous Arecibo region of Puerto Rico (yes, where the famous satellite dish is!) the only seafood she ever ate was bacalao, since it was preserved. She only ate fresh seafood during a rare trip to a city on the coast.
You can find bacalao at many Latin American grocery stores and sometimes more mainstream grocery stores or fish markets (I found it at Publix and Whole Foods in many areas of Florida). You can also order it on Amazon (I have not tried the one on Amazon but when I run out I'll try that vendor).
How To Cook With Bacalao
To cook with bacalao, you must first desalinate and rehydrate it by soaking it in water overnight, changing the water several times. It will swell in size as it soaks. Salt cod has a unique firm and chewy texture, more pronounced flavor than fresh cod, and should not have any lingering salt flavor if you've soaked it correctly. Just like ham has a distinct flavor from fresh pork, bacalao has its own signature flavor that may be an acquired taste for some.
Most bacalao is sold boneless, but it's still always a good idea to check for lingering bones. After soaking, most recipes will have you shred bacalao with your fingers, and that's a great time to feel around for any bones that need to be discarded.
Now, if you absolutely can't find bacalao or don't like the taste and texture, you can substitute fresh cod that's been poached in most recipes that call for bacalao. I actually used fresh cod in this instance since it was on major sale. Hubby still loved it and forgave me for the substitution 😉
Word to the wise: I strongly recommend only ever using peeled frozen yuca. The "fresh" roots at the store are coated in a petroleum-based wax and often have spoiled areas that need to be discarded (any soft or discolored area or area with black spots is not good to eat). The frozen is processed immediately after harvest and is truly fresh, and is often less per pound than "fresh" roots.
Enjoy this FAST and easy dish!
Bacalao Guisado // Puerto Rican Cod Stew (Paleo, Whole30, Wahls Protocol)
Bacalao guisado, Puerto Rican Cod Stew, is a quick and delicious meal perfect to feed a crowd or for batch cooking. Get more authentic Puerto Rican recipes like this in my print cookbook Latin American Paleo Cooking, releasing 8/22/17!
IngredientsFor the stew
- 1 1/2 lbs bacalao (salt cod) or fresh cod
- 1 1/2 lbs peeled yuca (frozen works well) or other desired starch (potatoes, malanga, taro, etc.)
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tbsp sofrito (recipe below)
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced
- 1 white or yellow onion, diced
- 1/4 cup sliced Manzanilla olives
- 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp unrefined salt
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 bay leaf
- juice of 1 lime
- 26 to 30 oz plain tomato sauce/strained tomatoes (I use a box of this)
- 1/2 to 1 cup water or broth, optional, to thin to desired consistency
- 1 cup packed cilantro (lower stems removed)
- 1/2 cup packed culantro (lower 2-3" of stems removed) - use extra cilantro if you can't find culantro
- 1 medium head garlic, cloves peeled
- 1 tbsp minced fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried
- 1/2 to 1 tsp unrefined salt
- 2 red bell peppers, stems and seeds removed
- 8 ajies dulces peppers (use 1 additional red bell pepper if unavailable)
- 1/2 yellow or white onion
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Prepare the bacalao by placing in a large glass bowl with a lid and covering with water. Soak according to package directions, or overnight, changing the water 3-4 times. Pinch off a bit to taste - it should have no overpowering salt flavor if properly desalinated. Shred the desalinated cod with your fingers, removing any bone fragments.
- Place the peeled yuca (I only use frozen yuca for ease, cost, and freshness) in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil then reduce to a low boil and cook about 12-15 minutes, until tender but not fully cooked. If you are using fresh cod instead of bacalao, cut the fillets into a few smaller pieces and poach them with the yuca for about 3-5 minutes. Strain everything. Remove the tough fibrous core from the yuca pieces (I lift it out with a fork) and chop the yuca into bite sized pieces. If using fresh cod, break it up into smaller flakes.
- While the yuca is cooking, begin the stew. Heat the oil in a large pan with high sides for 1-2 mins. Add the sofrito and garlic and cook until fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Add the bell pepper and onion and cook until about 10 minutes. Add all remaining ingredients and reduce heat to a simmer. Add in the cooked yuca and shredded bacalao or fresh cod pieces.
- Allow to simmer to allow the flavors to meld for at least 5-10 minutes.
- Serve and enjoy!
Cook time: 00 hrs. 20 mins.
Total time: 30 mins.Tags: paleo, Whole30, gluten-free, egg-free, Wahls protocol, Puerto Rican food, bacalao, salt cod
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And of course I highly recommend you pre-order my cookbook!! If you love this recipe you will be in heaven.....just look at those gorgeous pastelillos on the cover!