Roman Recipe for Filetti di Baccalà e Insalata di Puntarelle
Springtime (and Lent in particular) to me means "Filetti di Baccalà e insalata di puntarelle," or fried cod fillets with Roman chicory salad. Many were the Fridays I went with friends in Rome to the famed baccalà restaurant near the Church of Santa Barbara, just off the Via del Governo Vecchio. Inexpensive, delicious, a favorite of locals, the baccalà fillets are served wrapped in paper, and the puntarelle are spicy and strong.
1 1/2 pounds dried salt cod
1 cup flour
vegetable oil (or other oil for frying)
Rinse the baccalà, fillets, the place for 48 hours in water, changing the water every 8 hours, in order to remove most of the salt.
Clean the baccalà fillets, cut them into 1-inch strips, and drain. Pat dry.
Prepare the batter by adding the mineral water to the flour, whisking quickly to incorporate. The batter should "barely" come off the whisk when you raise it up: it should neither run off it quickly, nor stick to in entirely.
Heat the oil to hot but not smoking (make sure you have it hot enough to start, or you will end up with soggy fish fillets). Coat the fillets with the batter, using your fingers to remove the excess, then fry them for 10-15 minutes, turning them with a fork once or twice, until they are golden and cripsy.
Drain on a wire rack or paper towels and serve hot with a puntarelle salad.
1 head puntarelle*
4 anchovy fillets
1 clove garlic
extra virgin olive oil
white wine vinegar
salt & pepper
*We know! Finding puntarelle, or Roman chickory (also called cicoria catalogna) can be challenging outside of Lazio! You can substitute any type of chicory or endive, but preferably a bitter variety.
Trip off the leafy green tips of the puntarelle (or endive) and set aside for another use. Remove the tough stem on the bottom, then cut the stalks lengthwise to form very thin strips. Set the strips in a bowl of very cold water for 30-40 minutes (this gives them their distinctive curl and extra crunch).
In the meantime, in a mortar and pestle, crush 1 clove of garlic, 4 anchovy fillets, a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, and salt and pepper (not too much salt, as the anchovies are salty). Add a couple tablespoons of white wine vinegar.
Drain the puntarelle, pat them dry, and drizzle with the sauce.
You can also try these dishes in their natural setting: Rome! See our website for details on our Lazio cooking vacations, such as La Cucina Romana in the Sabine Hills and A Food Lover's Paradise in Umbria and Rome with Betty Ann Donegan.
By Peg Kern