Bacalao Vizcaìna

Cod in a Super Rich Sauce of Paprika and Onions

Preparation info

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By Frank Camorra and Richard Cornish

Published 2007

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As the Spanish name suggests, this dish hails from Vizcaya, the capital of the Basque country and perhaps the salt cod capital of Spain, if not the world. There they make bacalao vizcaína with dried peppers, which are then soaked in water. As they are unavailable in Australia, we have adapted the dish using fresh local capsicum and sweet paprika. We also confit the salt cod in garlic-infused olive oil to enhance the moistness of the dish. The perfect way to cook and serve the cod is in a cazuela. The rich colour of the terracotta seems to be a suitable match for the deep red and slightly spicy sauce, which holds the succulent morsels of moist fish.


  • 600 ml (21 fl oz) olive oil
  • 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) red onions, very finely sliced
  • large pinch of fine sea salt
  • red capsicums (peppers), seeded, membrane removed and very finely sliced
  • tablespoons Spanish sweet paprika
  • ½ chilli, finely sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, cut into slivers
  • 600 g (1 lb 5 oz) piece of salt cod, 2–3 cm (¾–1¼ inch) thick, desalinated
  • 1 small handful flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, roughly chopped


Soak a large cazuela in cold water for at least 24 hours (the longer the better). Drain and dry before using. Alternatively, use a large flameproof casserole dish.

To make the sauce, heat 100 ml ( fl oz) of the olive oil in a frying pan over low heat (if you are using a casserole dish, heat over low–medium heat). Add the onion and salt and cook, covered, for 15–20 minutes until soft and translucent, stirring occasionally. Add the capsicum, paprika and chilli and cook, covered, for 30 minutes. Add 170 ml ( fl oz/ cup) water and cook, covered, for 10 minutes, or until pulpy. Preheat the oven to 100°C (200°F/Gas ½).

Allow the sauce to cool for about 10 minutes, then pour into a food processor and blend for 30 seconds, or until roughly chopped. Pass through a coarse sieve, pushing the vegetable pulp with the back of a spoon until most of the vegetables have passed through. Discard any pieces of vegetables that are too large to pass through. Season to taste.

Heat the remaining olive oil in an ovenproof frying pan over high heat. Fry the garlic slivers for about 20 seconds, or until golden brown then remove from the heat and allow the oil to cool for 5–10 minutes.

Cut the cod into four portions. Do not remove the skin and bones. Carefully place the cod in the oil, skin side up. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes.

Remove the cod and drain on paper towel for 1 minute. Arrange the cod in the cazuela and pour over enough of the sauce to almost cover the cod. Bring to a simmer on the stovetop over low heat. Cook for 5–10 minutes, gently basting the fish and allowing the sauce to reduce a little. Garnish with parsley. Serve hot.