How to Make Baccalà Mantecato:
A Salt Cod Spread from Venice
Baccalà Mantecato is dried salted cod, boiled it in milk with garlic and served as mash on a piece of toasted bread. A true delicacy from the Venice region.
One of my friends’ mother is a really good cook, and whenever I meet her, we always exchange recipes. As a thoroughbred Italian, she knows everything worth knowing about Italian ways of cooking, but once I got the better of her. She had asked, how I prepared baccalà or dried salted cod, and when I told her, I boiled it in milk with garlic and served it as mash on a piece of toasted bread, she looked crestfallen. That was the most unsavoury, unitalian recipe, she had ever heard of, until I took one of her cookbooks from the shelf and showed her the description of Baccalà Mantecato.
She still maintains that Veneto is so far north that their specialities might as well be ‘stranieri’, but I’m sure she would like the antipasti, if she had a chance to taste it. Everybody else does.
200 g of baccalà or stoccafisso (dried salted fish)
1 peeled potato
1 glass of milk
2 cloves of garlic
Juice of ½ lemon
Capers or olives
Rosemary or parsley
Soak the dried fish in water for 24 hours or more until the meat is soft and the salt has been washed out. Change the water at reasonable intervals.
Boil the fish for 30 minutes and let it cool in the water. Remove skin and bones.
Cut the potato in small pieces and boil it with garlic. According to some recipes the potatoes should be boiled in milk from the beginning, but I find that it burns too easily.
When the potatoes are tender, drain off the water; add anchovies, baccalà and milk, and bring the mixture to the boil, while you stir vigorously with a wooden spoon.
Mash the ingredients to a paste adding lemon juice and/or olive oil, if necessary.
Sprinkle with black olives, capers, parsley or rosemary before serving with toasted bread and a dripping of olive oil.