Haitian dried salted codfish in oil
In Haiti, codfish is about as popular as salted smoked herring. Our repertoire of recipes is quite rich. It includes cod in sauce, croquettes prepared with lame veritable, chiquetaille – a recipe, which is quite similar to that of the smoked herring chiquetaille – and stuffed puff pastries, to name just a few.
However, while around the world, they eat this fish fresh, here, we only seem to consume it in its dried salted version.
It took me quite some time to befriend codfish. Throughout my childhood, one of my worse nightmares was to have it served as the main dish at our family table.
At my house, we mostly ate it cooked in oil or in a sauce. And both those recipes call for a generous amount of onions and shallots.
We all know I am not fond of those two ingredients.
To make matters worse, salted codfish is flaky and tends to attach itself to any added ingredient. My tiny fingers thus struggled to separate them, which led to a lot of frustration. I actually liked the saltiness of the fish, but I simply couldn’t handle eating it as prepared.
I was at my happiest when they served codfish croquettes. It is perhaps the only Haitian salted codfish preparation that does not seem to call for an excessive amount of shallots and onions. That recipe, which I hope to be able to share with you one day, allowed me to enjoy the taste of the codfish without the annoying shallot and onion bits.
But, for some reason, codfish in sauce seemed to find its way to our table way more often than the croquettes. Every time they served it, I would pout.
It wasn’t until recently that I learned to appreciate it. That day, they seemed to have finally felt my pain. Instead of flaking the cod, they had cut it into chunks that made it easier to separate it from the ingredients my palate does not like. That was enough to make codfish in oil more edible.
I was no longer eating an onion and shallot salad brightened with a hint of cod.
I was so delighted that day that I even agreed to eat it as an appetizer. In case you didn’t know, codfish is the perfect topping for fresh bread, crackers and crispy cassava.
This newfound taste encouraged me to learn to prepare it myself. It is that recipe that I share with you today.
I, of course, abide by strict rules:
- I do not flake my codfish. I cut it into big chunks using scissors.
- I do not overcook it so that the onions and shallots don’t break down too much and become difficult to extract.
- I separate the fish from the onions and shallots before biting into it.
Yes, in case you had doubts, I am still not a fan of onions and shallots. But I do understand that they’re important for flavor. That is why I still use them in certain recipes, especially the salted codfish in oil recipe below.
I recently updated the recipe below. It now includes fresh garlic and peppercorn, which were missing from the previous version.
Haitian dried salted codfish in oil
In Haiti, we only have dried salted codfish. There are different ways of preparing it, but this one is my favorite. The cod maintains its flavors without any ingredient over powering it.
The proportions in this recipe are approximate. Since we’re only using fresh ingredients, please make sure to adjust them according to your taste.
Cod cooks quickly so be careful not to leave it on the stove for too long or else you'll end up with very dry fried cod.
- 1/2 lb salted codfish
- 1/2 onion
- 1/2 bell pepper
- 1 or 2 garlic cloves
- 1/4 tsp whole peppercorn
- 1 piment bouc
- 1 or 2 tbsp oil
Soak the fish in water at room temperature for at least two hours
Drain the codfish, and discard the water
Flake the fish or cut using scissors
Chop the garlic & cut the onion and bell pepper into thin slices, julienne style
In a pan, heat the oil
Once the hot is well heated, add the drained codfish, garlic, bell pepper, onion, peppercorn and whole piment bouc in the hot oil
Cook until the onions become translucent
Serve as a main dish with plantains or potatoes, or as an appetizer with crackers or bread rolls.
Salted codfish is high in sodium. The best way to remove the excess salt is by soaking it for a couple of waters, and changing the water at least once or twice before cooking it.