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~ A Puerto Rican Bacalao Guisado (Cod Fish Stew) ~

IMG_9784Let me start by saying I am just an American girl cooking a really good Puerto Rican stew for dinner tonight -- this is not a lesson in Puerto Rican cooking.  My knowledge of Puerto Rican cooking is limited, but, my experiences with Puerto Rican food have all been good ones, so, don't ruin that for me with criticizms.  For a brief period of time we had a Puerto Rican neighbor named Yvonne.  It was from her I learned a little about Puerto Rican homestyle cooking.  Her specialties were "frituras di maiz" (corn fritters), "picadillo" (ground meat stew), and, "bacalao guisado" (cod fish stew).  Later, on a trip to Miami, I enjoyed a lovely dish of "camarones in escabeche" (pickled shrimp), followed by a luxurious "tembleque" (coconut custard)!

CulantroWhat I know about Puerto Rican cooking in general comes from Yvonne, who explained I'd find similar recipes in Caribbean, Cuban, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian food.  What sets their cuisine apart are three words: sofrito, adobo, and, achiote.  On my own I've deduced that Puerto Rican cooks seem to prefer red onions to white, use a lot of pimento stuffed green olives, and, culantro is not the same as cilantro, it's a spiny herb-cousin.  When they say "oil", it's vegetable oil!

Sofrito is used for flavoring.  It is an aromatic salsa-like mixture of processed fresh herbs and spices used as a base for countless dishes.  Like salsa, there are green and red versions. Adobo is used for seasoning.  It's a mixture of black pepper, oregano and garlic. Achiote is used for yellow-orange color.

"Bacalao" (bah-kah-LAH-oh) is the Spanish word for "cod fish".  In an authentic version, I'd be soaking dried salt cod in cold water for 2-3 days and changing the water 2-3 times daily.  I'm using fresh cod filets because I love them and they save time.  In an authentic version, I'd also be using a food processor to combine my culantro, freshly roasted peppers, garlic and onions (with tomatoes today) for the sofrito.  I'd need a mortar and pestle to make my adobo seasoning, and, I'd be cooking annatto seeds in vegetable oil to make achiote too!  Not today.  Meet:

IMG_9788Yvonne's yummy "don't sweat it" easy Bacalao Guisado recipe:

IMG_9670For the achiote potatoes:

3  cups peeled and 3/4" diced gold potatoes

2 packets Sazon Goya con culantro y achiote (seasoning mix with coriander & annatto)

1  teaspoon sea salt

For the sofrito/adobo mixture:

4  tablespoons vegetable oil

4  cups 1/2" diced red onion

1  cup 1/2" diced green bell pepper

IMG_97021  cup 1/2" diced red bell pepper

4  large garlic cloves, run through a press

1  teaspoon Mexican-style dried oregano

1/2  teaspoon Goya adobo seasoning with pepper

1/2  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper 

1/2  cup whole, green, pimento-stuffed olives, well-drained, about 24 olives

IMG_97401  tablespoon large capers, well-drained

1/4  cup Goya sofrito w/tomatoes

1  8-ounce can tomato sauce

1  cup reserved, starchy, anchiote-seasoned potato water

For the cod:

1 3/4-2  pounds fresh cod filets, cut into 1" chunks, about 5-6 cups

IMG_9695 IMG_9679~ Step 1.  In a 4-quart saucepan, place the potatoes with water to cover.  Add the Sazon Goya and sea salt.  Bring to a boil over high heat, adjust to a simmer and cook, uncovered, 6 minutes.  Do not over cook.  Drain thoroughly, reserving 1-cup of the seasoned, starchy water. Set potatoes & water aside.

~ IMG_9708 Step 2.  In a 4-quart stockpot, place vegetable oil.  Prep and add the onion, bell peppers and garlic as you work.  Add the oregano, adobo seasoning and black pepper.  Saute over medium-high heat until the onion softens, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes.  

IMG_9715Stir in olives and capers and cook for 1 more minute.

IMG_9726 IMG_9722                                           ~ Step 3. Turn the heat off.  Stir in the Goya sofrito, tomato sauce and potato water.

IMG_9742~ Step 4. Cut the cod fish into large 3/4"-1" chunks.

IMG_9746~ Step 5.  Add the cod to the stew mixture and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.  Adjust heat to a steady simmer, cover and continue to cook until cod it opaque in color and just cooked through, about 4-5 minutes.  Turn the heat off.

IMG_9755Gently fold in the potatoes, wait about a minute for them to heat through and serve immediately with warm, crusty bread and butter!

IMG_9762This stew is often served over a scoop of white rice steamed in coconut milk too, but, for me, these pretty yellow-orange colored potatoes are enough starch in one meal!!

IMG_9804A Puerto Rican Bacalao Guisido (Cod Fish Stew):  Recipe yields 3 quarts of stew, or, 6, 2-cup servings.  While this stew recipe doubles or triples very well, don't be inclined to make a double batch because you want leftovers, as the cod tends to break down.  Just make as much as you plan to serve that day -- but make enough for second helpings!

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 4-quart saucepan; 1-cup measuring container; 1-quart measuring container; colander; garlic press; 4-quart stockpot w/lid

6a0120a8551282970b0147e3aaeaa6970bCook's Note: Puerto Rican stew is a great change-of-pace to my traditional lenten fare.  For another one of my favorite lenten stews, which is quite elegant, ~ Provencal Seafood (Lobster*) Stew w/Lemon Rice ~ can be found in Categories 2, 11, 14 or 21!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014) 


Chiqui -- I am so happy you commented, and, thank-you for correcting the spelling on the frituras and the pronunciation of the bah-kay-LAH (not LAY)-oh. I went back into the post and made the corrections. Hope to hear from you again sometime soon!

Hi. I am from Puerto Rico. Love your recipe, great details, but the pronounciation should be [bah-kah-LAH-oh]. Also , it's "frituras de maiz". It's wonderful to see PR recipes being enjoyed and shared. ¡Buen Provecho!

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