You know it’s Christmas in Rome when you start listening your family talking about the food to be arranged for the 24th and the 25h of December; this usually happens from the 8th of December but, to be honest, most families already have everything planned since the end of November because the Christmas menu repeats identically year by year. One of the most common food served the 24 of December, at dinner, in Rome is the so-called fried salt cod. The traditional “baccalà alla romana”.
If you’re thinking of a fish and chips sort of food you’re only partially right: it’s more than that, it’s more accurate, more complicated to make and even tastier. It’s so traditional that also people like me, who do not usually love it, cannot help but taste it on Christmas Eve.
What you need to make 20 fillets of fried cod
600 grams of dried salted cod
100 grams flour
How to make the fillets of fried cod
1. Soak the cod in water for 24-48 hours to make all the salt disappear, completely changing the water every 7-8 hours.
2. Clean and wash the cod in water then warm it well and cut into strips of about 2 cm each. Put it to rest in a colander to make sure that it loses all the water in excess.
3. Prepare the batter by mixing the flour and enough water just to get a smooth and not too liquid nor too soft mixture. To verify the consistency of your batter simply insert the fork into the compound and ensure that, by pulling the fork out, the batter struggles to get off without remain attached and doesn’t slip away like water.
4. Put the oil in a deep pan and heat it, then take the fillets of cod and pour in the batter turning continually. Once the oil is hot (but not burnt) plunge the fillets gently into the oil and let them fry for about 10 minutes, turning with a fork.
5. Drain on paper, add pepper and serve hot.
Preparation time: desalting + 10 minutes
1. Do not add yeast! The fried cod is not a fried pizza and the batter has be light and enhance the flavor of the fish.
2. The batter should be prepared and used without any rest for the same reason above: the lightness is also due to the presence of sparkling water that should be exploited to the maximum when mixed with the flour in order to ensure a light and crunchy fish.
3. Do not replace the water with beer because the flavor changes completely and at times it becomes disgusting. Do not add salt nor in the batter nor in the fish
4. Do not add any egg to the batter: this is not a fish and chips!
When in Rome, have a taste of the marvellous fried cod at the Dar filettaro a Santa Barbara (near Campo dei Fiori, Largo dei Librari, 88. Tel. 06-6864018 Closed on Sundays). A real must for locals where to eat a traditional fried cod all year around.
[Pic by Giuseppe Milo]