Alternative Fish & Chips

(don't call it Cod)

Sometimes I feel like the Nordic Countries , when it comes to food, have these “gold-mine” products and they don’t even realize it, let alone make good use of it (or any use, sometimes). Take Baccalà, or Salted Cod, possibly my favorite fish: Norway is the biggest producer of this delicious stuff, and Norwegians don’t even know what it is, I asked! Swedes and Danes same thing, Finnish I don’t really care… Anyway, Baccalà is nothing else than Cod preserved in a lot of salt, so much so that it gets completely dry and hard and smells quite weird. Then you leave it in cold water for a couple of days and the magic happens: the salt melts, the water hydrates the fish again, and the Cod is back in all its white, tender magnificence, plus a delicious salty aftertaste and aroma. For some reasons Norway produces it, and then only sells it to Portugal, Italy and Spain: it’s an export-only product, which is insane.

In Italy Baccalà is cooked in a number of ways, but my favourite is deep-fried after being floured well. But to make things interesting I thought to give it the fish&chips treatment (or my personal version of it), with a proper beer and flour batter. I’m sure that if Britons realize that such thing as salted cod exist, they will ask themselves “why didn’t we think about this before!”. Because of course is way superior: the fish has this very peculiar salt taste (without being salty, unless you don’t desalt it enough), and a bit of a chewy consistency from the drying/re-hydrating process that is just a perfect combination. Of course if you don’t live in Italy, or Portugal, or Spain, you won’t be able to find it easily, but around Christmas I spotted it in one of the fancy markets in Stockholm, and at a price that wasn’t completely unreasonable, which means there’s hope for everybody.

To make the recipe really “alternative fish&chips” here I propose sweet potatoes fries as a side; sweet potatoes fries are one of my ongoing experiments, trying to achive an as-crispy-as-possible fry, given that sweet potatoes will always remain a bit mushy because they just won’t behave, with all their high moisture and low starch ratio. But I’m getting closer…

Special Equipment

  • kitchen thermometer


  • 250 gdesalted Baccalà (I guess you can use Cod if you really can't find the real deal)
  • for the batter:
  • 100 gflour
  • 1 cancold beer
  • 1/2 teaspoonground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoondry parsley
  • 1 teaspoongarlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoonCayenne pepper
  • saltto taste
  • vegetable oilfor deep-frying
  • for the fries:
  • 1 sweet potato


A couple of things that you might want to know before you start this recipe. The fish should be at room temperature before cooking it, especially since we’re deep-frying it, or it won’t get cooked evenly.
Do not use a lager beer if possible, better be something with a good structure, possibly hoppy but not too bitter; and use it very cold, this is important for the final crispiness of the crust.

  1. If you’re using Cod, because of course you’re a very lazy person and you can’t be bothered to go out and find some Baccalà at your local market, then you can jump to step #2. Otherwise you might need to desalt the fish (you can also find it already desalted, but it’s always good to know how to do it). It’s quite simple: first you wash the Baccalà under running water to get rid of the excess salt, than with a good knife you cut it into portion-pieces, finally you just leave it in a bowl of abundant cold water for 24 hours, changing the water once every 8 hours; if it’s a very thick piece, you might need a bit more time. You can actually taste the raw fish to check if it’s still too salty or not.
  2. Prepare the batter. Mix the flour, the spices and the beer; add the beer a little at the time until the batter reaches the correct consistency, not too liquid and not to thick (mix it well, you want to eliminate any flour lumps). You can of course drink the beer left while you procede with the recipe.
  3. In a deep pan, or in a fryer, or in a wok (this is my weapon of choice usually) heat an abundant amount of oil (we want to deep-fry here!) to a temperature between 170° and 190°. Use you kitchen thermometer for this, it’s very important that the oil is not too hot (if it goes over the smoking point it will burn everything, plus is very bad for your health) or not enough (in which case the fish will become like a sponge for the oil). Dry the fish with a paper towel and gently immerse it into the batter coating it well, and very carefully lower it in the hot oil, one piece at the time. It will only need to cook for 4 or 5 minutes, until it gets a nice golden and crisp crust.
  4. And the sweet potatoes! Well let’s do it  the simple way for now. Just cut the potatoes in typical fries wedges, and fry them in the same oil you used for the fish, making sure the oil temperature stays around 160° C. The potatoes will reach a nice golden-brown color in 5/7 minutes. Make sure to eat them as soon as they’re ready, to keep some of the hard-to-maintain crispiness.

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