I don’t know about you, but when I want Italian food, I want a bowl of white cheesy pasta that glues together like chain mail. I want salt, tomato, oregano and basil to be so strong that I think my mouth will explode. I want the comfort of heavy carbohydrates that nothing else but mum can bring.
Dear friends, let me change your paradigm…
Enter baccala alla vincentina e polenta. Although from here on, we’re going to call it ‘baccala’.
Baccala is effectively a salted cod-fish stew in a base of milk, white wine, parsley, onion and olive oil, indigenous to the Veneto region in northern Italy. In other regions, baccala is simply made as stoccafisso.
The dish is extremely rich and served on top of fresh polenta. Each village of the Veneto serves baccala differently, depending on the historical recipes that are passed down through generations.
As this un-stereotypical Italian dish is foreign to me, I’ve asked my dear friend Annalivia Carli to describe how her family prepare and eat baccala. The Carlis migrated to Brunswick from the Veneto in the 1950s.
The dish takes a full day for Annalivia’s dad, Carlo, to prepare from soaking the cod to allowing the flavours to settle. It has become a ritual for him and Annalivia doesn’t think Carlo has adapted the recipe much from the way his mother made it.
Baccala isn’t a traditional Easter dish, but the Carlis only eat it on Good Friday, which Annalivia says is more of an Italo-Australian family tradition.
As stew is so rich, it is served as an entree and everyone only has one spoonful on top of polenta to catch the juices.
In the Veneto, different towns traditionally eat either white or yellow polenta, but recently the Carlis have been eating a combination of both. The polenta is made from scratch, and there is always left overs to grill for the next day’s meal!