Raito is the name of the sauce in which any number of fish—eel, conger eel, whiting, halibut, fresh haddock, sliced, fileted, or cut into sections, may be gently stewed after having been lightly pan fried. Salt cod, alone, is prepared in a raito (or sometimes in a capilotade—chopped onions cooked in olive oil, flour stirred in, moistened with water and vinegar to taste, bouquet garni, and a handful of capers; in parts of the Var, the vinegar is replaced by a glass of vin cuit, a homemade sweet wine, reserved usually for Christmas and prepared at the time of the grape harvest from the unfermented grape must reduced and skimmed—a certain amount of marc or distilled alcohol is often added to it) as one of the traditional dishes of the Provençal Christmas Eve gros souper.
Stew the onions in the olive oil for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring from time to time, until softened and yellow, but not browned. Stir in the flour, cook, stirring for a couple of minutes, then add the wine, slowly at first, stirring all the while. Stir in the other liquids, add all the other ingredients, salting lightly; bring to a boil and regulate the heat so as to maintain the sauce at a very light boil, uncovered, for some 2½ to 3 hours—it should, finally, be reduced by about two thirds. Discard the bouquet and purée the sauce. Add the olives and the capers and leave to simmer gently for another 15 minutes.
Flour the cod sections lightly and fry them in hot olive oil for a couple of minutes on each side, coloring the surface but slightly. Drain them on paper toweling. Pour a bit of the sauce into the bottom of a wide earthenware dish (or other fireproof deep serving dish just large enough to hold the cod pieces placed side by side), arrange the pieces of fish, and pour the rest of the sauce over them. Heat and simmer gently for about 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with parsley, if you like.
Copyright © 1974 by Richard Olney. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.