Though not as daunting as organ meats, salt cod is still regarded with suspicion by the majority of Americans, who seem to think that it is inevitably chewy and, of course, salty as hell. Neither is true if it is properly prepared.
Soak salt cod in a large bowl of water, in the refrigerator, for about 48 hours, changing the water 2 or 3 times a day.
Drain salt cod, cut or pull off skin and remove any bones, then chop into pieces 1½″ to 2″ square. Set aside.
In a large skillet or stew pot, sauté onions in a little olive oil over lowest possible heat for 1 to IV2 hours, stirring occasionally. Add paprika or cayenne and lemon juice, stir well, and continue cooking for another 15 or 20 minutes. Add bell peppers, chile, and garlic, and cook for 15 or 20 minutes longer, stirring occasionally.
Add potatoes and wine to pot, turn heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, add salt cod, cover, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Add pepper to taste and salt if necessary (do not add salt without first tasting stew).
Serve with warm country-style bread.
© 1992 Colman Andrews. All rights reserved.