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Bacalao al Pil-Pil, the gastronomic tour of Spain in 19 traditional dishes arrives in the Basque Country

Eugenio Serlupini, Bilbao / Spain

You say Bacalao to GDP-GDP and you say Pais Vasco, or Basque Country. We are in northern Spain, where the coast is washed by the Cantabrian Sea and where gastronomy is therefore closely linked to fishing and maritime tradition. After all, these territories, from Bilbao to San Sebastián, are a popular tourist destination thanks to a complete offer. El bacalao al Pil-Pil is a traditional dish prepared with four basic ingredients: cod, olive oil, garlic and chillies. The fish is cooked in olive oil which, together with the gelatin naturally released from the skin of the cod, forms a characteristic sauce called, precisely, pil pil.

(TurismoItaliaNews) “From a gastronomic point of view, the Basque Country is a top tourist destination – explain to us from Turespaña, the Spanish Tourist Board – a coastal and border community, whose culinary richness and diversity are due to the mixture of maritime customs and mountain culture with a modern signature cuisine of the highest quality, which has emerged in recent decades with the appearance of the so-called new Basque cuisine. due to the particular character of the Basque people, so devoted to their traditions and greedy, around which revolves a large part of social life”.


Bilbao, the Guggenheim

And the standard bearer is El bacalao al pilpil, a traditional dish par excellence. For the preparation, cod is used as the main ingredient (it can be cod, in this case it must be desalted 48 hours before, changing the water several times) and the other essential ingredients are olive oil extra virgin and garlic. Strong and typical taste.

“For centuries, the Basques were great sailors due to their geographical position dominating the Bay of Biscay. Their constant fishing forays into the shoals of Newfoundland are confirmed by the massive consumption of cod in the area. Imported to the peninsula to fight famine in the past, today it has become an excellent dish thanks to the work and grace of the popular recipe book”, they still tell us from Turespaña. The sauces that have been developed to season this fish (pil pil, vizcaína, salsa verde, ajoarriero …) are true monuments of local gastronomy and living proof of its ancestral ability to create refined cuisine, well beyond from the simple exaltation of excellent raw materials.

Bacalao al Pil-Pil recipe

Ingredients for 4 persons :
-4 slices of cod, not very thick
-1/4 liter of extra virgin olive oil
-6 garlic cloves
-1 pepper.

The cod is desalted for 36 hours by changing the water 3 or 4 times. After this time, scales and spines are removed and dried well with a clean cloth. Cut the garlic into rings and brown it over low heat in a pan with the oil. When they start to brown, remove them and set aside. In the same oil add the cod, and cook over low heat for 10 minutes more or less depending on the thickness of the slices. Put another clay pot on the stove and add some cod cooking oil. When hot, place the fish slices skin side down. Gently move the pan and at the same time add, little by little, the remaining oil. Once cooked, decorate the cod with the garlic and a few slices of chilli. This preparation, very particular to Basque cuisine, is generally applied only to fish, and the name is an onomatopoeia of the bubbling of the oil when the dish is presented on the table, when it is ready.

To this very special dish from the Basque Country, the Spanish Post Office has dedicated a printed stamp in a fold-out version as part of the “Gastronomy. Espana en 19 platos” in collaboration with the Real Academia de Gastronomia. The issue is scheduled for October 25, 2022, with a value of €4.50.

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