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Bacalao a la Riojana: A Taste of Tradition from Spain’s Rioja Region

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Bacalao a la Riojana, or Riojan-Style Cod, is a cherished dish that combines the delicate flavor of cod fish with the robust and earthy flavors typical of Rioja cuisine. This dish originates from the Rioja region in northern Spain, renowned for its fine wines and hearty culinary traditions. Bacalao a la Riojana showcases the region’s commitment to simple yet flavorful ingredients, resulting in a dish that is both comforting and satisfying.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cod fillets, about 150g each, skin removed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 tomatoes, diced (or 1 cup canned diced tomatoes)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (pimentón)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish

Instructions:

  1. Prepare the Cod Fillets:
    • Pat dry the cod fillets with paper towels. Season lightly with salt and pepper on both sides.
  2. Sauté the Aromatics:
    • In a large skillet or frying pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add minced garlic and cook for another minute until fragrant.
  3. Add Bell Peppers and Tomatoes:
    • Stir in diced red and green bell peppers, and tomatoes (or canned tomatoes). Cook for about 5-7 minutes until the vegetables start to soften.
  4. Season the Dish:
    • Sprinkle smoked paprika and sweet paprika over the vegetables. Add a bay leaf for additional flavor. Stir to combine and cook for another minute to toast the spices.
  5. Deglaze with White Wine:
    • Pour in the dry white wine, scraping the bottom of the skillet to release any browned bits (fond). Let the wine simmer for a few minutes to reduce slightly and infuse the flavors.
  6. Simmer with Cod Fillets:
    • Carefully place the cod fillets into the skillet, nestling them into the vegetable mixture. Spoon some of the sauce over the fillets. Cover the skillet and simmer gently for about 8-10 minutes, or until the cod is cooked through and flakes easily with a fork.
  7. Adjust Seasoning and Serve:
    • Taste the Bacalao a la Riojana and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if needed. Remove the bay leaf. Sprinkle chopped fresh parsley over the dish for a pop of color and freshness.
  8. Serve Hot:
    • Serve the Bacalao a la Riojana immediately, placing a cod fillet on each plate and spooning the vegetable sauce over the top. Serve hot with crusty bread or steamed rice to soak up the delicious sauce.

Variations and Serving Suggestions:

  • Potato Addition: For a heartier version, add diced potatoes to the vegetable mixture when sautéing, creating a one-pot meal with cod and potatoes.
  • Side Dish Pairings: Serve Bacalao a la Riojana with a side of sautéed spinach, roasted vegetables, or a fresh green salad to balance the richness of the dish.

Conclusion: Bacalao a la Riojana showcases the rustic flavors and traditional cooking methods of Spain’s Rioja region, featuring tender cod fish simmered with aromatic vegetables and spices. This dish is a testament to Rioja’s culinary heritage, offering a taste of comfort and tradition in every bite. By following this recipe, you can recreate the authentic flavors of Bacalao a la Riojana in your own kitchen, bringing a piece of Spain’s rich gastronomy to your table.

Enjoy the savory flavors of Riojan-Style Cod and savor the tender fish and aromatic sauce, creating a memorable dining experience that celebrates the essence of Spanish cuisine!

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Written by Robert Zelesky

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