Bacalaitos (Puerto Rican Cod Fish Fritters)
Chef Reina Gascon-Lopez
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- 4 cups All-Purpose flour (whisked to remove any lumps)
- 1 tbsp granulated garlic
- 1 tbsp cracked black pepper
- 1 tsp Spice Tribe Smoky Sazón Spice Blend
- 3 1/2 cups of diluted bacalao water (see note)
- 1 tsp Spice Tribe Sofrito Spice Blend
- 1 tsp cilantro, finely chopped
- 1 tsp recao (known as culantro), finely chopped (see note)
- 1 tsp oregano brujo, finely chopped (see note)
- 1 1/2 cups boiled and flaked bacalao (salted cod)
- First, get a large frying pan ready (cast iron would be great here) and heat up with about 2 inches of oil (enough for a shallow fry) over medium heat and bring up to temperature.
- Next, in a large stockpot, cover the bacalao with cold water and let it sit for about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse. Then, cover the fish again with fresh water and bring it to a boil. Salted cod is a cured fish, so you’re going to want to remove the majority of the salt by boiling it off.
- Once the water comes to a boil, let it cook for 10 minutes. Taste a piece after it has boiled. If it’s too salty for you, continue to change the water out and boil again to rinse it off. Remember, it’s supposed to be salty and you won’t need any salt in the batter because of this, but it shouldn’t be overpowering at all. You’re looking for a good balance.
- Keep the salted water, since you’ll be using it for the batter. You want to dilute it with equal parts of plain water to avoid over-salting it. Set aside. Once the fish has cooled down, flake up the fish into medium sized chunks as pictured below.
- Next, in a large mixing bowl, add the all-purpose flour, granulated garlic, black pepper, Spice Tribe Smoky Sazón, Spice Tribe Sofrito Blend, and whisk well.
- Then, gradually add the diluted bacalao water to the flour mixture until everything is incorporated and relatively thin. It should look like a thinned out pancake batter. Once the batter is mixed, add the finely chopped herbs. Next up, add and fold in the flaked fish into the batter and mix well.
- Once the batter is ready and the oil is hot, ladle in the batter and evenly spread out to fry up. The batter should start to turn a light golden color and crisp up on the edges. I enjoy my bacalaitos a little fluffy and dense in the middle with very crispy edges, the same way I like my traditional pancakes.
- The bacalaitos should crisp up nicely after about 10 minutes of cooking, flipping occasionally with a fork. I used a wooden skewer to hang up the fritters to drain the oil and cool slightly. Serve immediately and enjoy!
Keep the water from the boiled bacalao. See instructions below. If you aren’t able to find fresh recao or oregano brujo (I’m able to find these at my local international market), you can substitute more cilantro or plain fresh oregano in its place.