Spanish-Style Salt Cod

Katie Button walks us through bacalao

Most chefs wouldn't touch seafood that was older than a week, but Katie Button doesn't balk at a mature fish. 

At Curaté, her tapas restaurant in Asheville, North Carolina, the most frequently encountered fish on the menu is bacalao, a Spanish-style cod that has been salted and requires rehydration before cooking. 

Bacalao is a classic Spanish ingredient, which shows up in everything from fritters to cold salads. Button recommends using already rehydrated cod (click here to buy) or salt-cod tenderloins. For fish that hasn't been rehydrated, Button suggests soaking it in water for 24 to 48 hours, changing the water every few hours. 

What may seem like lots of effort is worth it: The process creates a fish that is flaky and seasoned throughout—comparable to a brined chicken as opposed to chicken seasoned superficially.

Button has ample applications for the cod, including a salad that nods to her mentor, José Andrés. We're fans of her brandada (click here to see the recipe). She serves it as a dip, but also recommends stuffing it into piquillo peppers and searing them on the planxa, or even folding it into scrambled eggs.

Even fish, it seems, can get better with age.