The air-dried salted fish from the Lofoten Islands was revered as much as the local fish that went into bouillabaisse, and its uses in the villages between Nice and Monaco are still shrouded in mystery.
Made with a whole stockfish, a tub of tomatoes infused with a lot of garlic, it was a slow-cooked stew with countless variations on the basic recipe.
Also known as estofinado and stoficado, this dish goes through a transformation when the reconstituted fish is poached with combinations that include garlic, herbs, onions, sweet red peppers, tomatoes and white wine.
This stew is served with potatoes mashed with butter, cream, eggs, garlic, parsley and hot walnut oil or with black olives, onions, olive oil and red peppers.
Some chefs now make both the stew and the mash with fresh cod, and make a baccalà-like dish by poaching the cod and adding the perfectly cooked flakes to mashed potatoes, olive oil and parsley, finishing with a garnish of grated parmigiano cheese and anchovy fillets.
Puréed anchovies with basil and garlic, and chopped parsley are a traditional accompaniment.
This is an interpretation of the original.
- 1 kg stockfish, dry weight, soaked for 72 hours, water changed twice a day
- 900 g tomatoes, skinned, chopped
- 600 g potatoes, peeled, quartered
- 500 g red peppers, chopped
- 400 g onions, chopped
- 120 ml white wine
- 75 g black olives
- 75 g garlic, crushed
- 45 ml olive oil
- Brandy, splash
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp salt (optional)
- 6 black peppercorns
- 1 tbsp marjoram
- 5 thyme sprigs
- 3 bay leaves
Remove the skin from the rehydrated stockfish, break in half along the spine, place in a saucepan with sufficient water to cover. Add a bay leaf, 100 g of the chopped onions and two cloves of garlic. Bring to the boil and simmer for an hour. Strain liquid and set aside. Remove bones from fish and cut into small pieces.
Heat the olive oil in a deep frying pan over a medium setting. Sauté the fish gently, adding a splash of brandy and a glass of white wine. Evaporate the alcohol and remove the fish to a bowl.
Deglaze the pan with the tomatoes, add the remaining garlic, herbs, peppercorns, half of the red peppers, the remaining bay leaves and the seasonings.
Reduce on a high heat for 15 minutes, then add the fish and three ladlefuls of the stockfish stock. Cover and simmer for 90 minutes, adding more stock when the stew becomes thick.
In a separate saucepan cook the potatoes. Mash, add remaining onions, remaining red peppers and olives.
Serve in soup bowls.