Salt Cod Fritters
At eighteen, I started my first fine-dining apprenticeship at Can Gaig, a storied Michelin-starred Barcelona restaurant with a history dating back to the 1800s. While there, I noticed that many of the dishes on the menu could have been lifted right from the daily lunch specials at Bar Roca, the little bar-restaurant my mother ran near the Sagrada Família. At Can Gaig, these familiar dishes were elevated to a level I had never before imagined. I was inspired. This buñuelos recipe, which I learned to make while working there, exemplifies the spirit of transforming everyday staples into something much more.
In this recipe, creamy potatoes bind garlicky salt cod to form little golden fritters that release a burst of salty seaside air at first bite. At Boqueria, we balance the briny goodness and steamy warmth with a cooling citrus mayonnaise.
Salt Cod Fritters:
¼ pounds bacalao (salt cod) fillets, boneless
5 medium Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into 1½-inch chunks
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 small garlic cloves, chopped
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 large eggs, room temp
Oil, for frying
Place the bacalao fillets in a deep dish and cover with cold water. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 days, changing the water three times in the process. Drain well and cut into 1½-inch chunks.
Place the chopped potatoes in a large saucepan and add enough cold water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat, then boil until just tender, about 10 minutes. Avoid overcooking them; if they are soft they’ll become watery. Drain well.
While the potatoes are boiling, place the bacalao in another saucepan and add enough cold water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. When the water comes to a rolling boil, remove from heat. Set a strainer over a bowl and strain the bacalao, reserving 2/3 cup of its cooking water.
Combine the olive oil and garlic in a large clean saucepan. Set over medium heat and cook until the garlic is fragrant and just golden, about 4 minutes. Immediately add the flour and cook, stirring continuously, until the mixture is smooth and bubbling, about 1 minute. While stirring, pour in half of the bacalao water in a steady stream. Stir until smooth, then add the remaining water.
Transfer the flour mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, along with the drained bacalao, potatoes, and parsley. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs one at a time. As soon as the eggs are fully incorporated, stop mixing. You want the mixture to include some chunks of potato and cod. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly against the surface of the mixture and refrigerate until cold, at least 3 hours. It will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Line a wire rack with paper towels. Fill a large saucepan with oil to a depth of 3 inches. Heat over medium-high heat until it registers 375°F on a thermometer. Scoop up one heaped tablespoon of the bacalao mixture and carefully drop it into the hot oil. Repeat with more of the bacalao mixture until the buñuelos form a single layer in the saucepan without crowding. Fry, turning gently until puffed and evenly golden brown, 1–2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the buñuelos to the paper towels. Let the oil heat up again and repeat with the remaining bacalao mixture, working in batches as necessary. Serve the buñuelos hot or warm with citrus mayonnaise for dipping.