The Basques, both on the Spanish and the French sides of the Pyrenees, are aficionados of salt cod, whose full flavor makes it especially delicious in hearty soups containing peppers and tomatoes. Get the thickest salt cod you can for this soup.
Basque cooks use their own local variety of chile—piments d’Espelette—but I haven’t been able to find them in the United States. Most recipes written in English recommend using sweet peppers and then suggest adding cayenne to give the soup a little punch. I always find that sweet peppers take over the flavor of whatever they’re in, so I like to use either fresh or dried Mexican and New Mexico chilies.
Drain the cod and put it in a
If you’re using fresh chilies, roast, peel, and seed them as described, and cut them crosswise into strips.
If you’re using dried chilies, cut them lengthwise, remove the stem and seeds, and cut them crosswise into strips. Soak the strips for 20 minutes in just enough hot water to cover. Taste the soaking water—if it’s bitter, throw it out; if it tastes good, add it to the soup. Finely chop the softened chilies into a coarse paste or puree them in a blender with the white wine.
Combine the olive oil, onion, leek, and garlic in a
Pour the liquid used to poach the cod (if there isn’t at least
© 2000 James Peterson. All rights reserved.