I have been visiting Puerto Rico for 30 years and was introduced to its culture and cuisine by my good friend, Chef Alfredo Ayala. I have always been drawn to the beauty of the island and the friendly nature of the people who live there. The culture has been shaped by centuries of travelers, making their way here through shipping and trade, and the influences of Spanish, African, and native Caribbean Indians are still quite evident. The clear, blue waters, white beaches, colorful architecture and happy people give me energy and I created this bacalao (codfish) salad to help transport me back to Puerto Rico when I am feeling nostalgic.
Note: This recipe requires that you salt the cod and allow it to sit in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.
When purchasing the cod filets, try to find filets that have been cut from the thicker, head end of the fish. The cooked fish will then yield nice, thick flakes for this particular recipe.
Season the cod with salt on all sides. Lay the cod on a small tray with a paper towel underneath the filet. Place in the refrigerator, uncovered for at least 4 hours but no longer than 24 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350º F.
Remove the cured codfish from the refrigerator and pat dry. Place the pieces on a very lightly oiled baking tray or a large non-stick, oven-proof skillet. Sprinkle each piece with about 1 teaspoon of olive oil and put in the oven. Cook for about 8-10 minutes, flipping gently halfway through, until the fish is just warm. You can test this by inserting a thin metal skewer or cake tester into the fish for 5 seconds, remove it and touch it to your lip or underside of your wrist and when it feels warm—not hot, the fish is done. Remove from the oven and allow to rest at room temperature for about 5 minutes.
Place each filet on a plate and gently pull the flakes apart and arrange evenly on the plate. Add half of the sliced red onions and half of the capers evenly to each plate and sprinkle a little more of the olive oil and about 1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar on each portion. Grind fresh black pepper on each serving and allow them to marinade for a few minutes while you combine the vegetables that will go with the fish.
In a separate bowl, combine the peppers, avocado, potatoes, half of the chopped parsley and the rest of the vinegar, and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste and gently toss together.
To finish plating the salad, arrange the hard-boiled egg around evenly on each plate. Gently spoon the marinated onions, peppers, and potatoes around each plate with a bit of the vinegar and olive oil from the bottom of the bowl. Garnish with a few parsley leaves if you like and serve immediately.
4 6-ounce cod filets
Fine sea salt
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 medium red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
4 tablespoons small capers, or large ones chopped
freshly ground black pepper
1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 avocado, skin and pit removed, medium diced
1 large Yukon gold potato, cooked with the skin, peeled and medium diced
2 eggs, hard-boiled and sliced 1/8 inch
12 parsley leaves, coarsely chopped