A few years ago, I took a food history course on the culture and cuisine of Italy with Ken Albala and one of the many surprises was a sweet and sour salt cod recipe from a medieval cookbook by Scappi. The recipe involved breaded and fried salt cod, verjus, pine nuts and raisins, a sweet, sour and salty concoction that when I read it I thought it sounded horrible. Salt cod is strong stuff and I had never heard of verjus (also spelled verjuice), but once the fish was rehydrated, and sauteed with the vinegar-like verjus, a fermented mix of unsweetned grapes, it was a surprisingly delicious dish.
For this Christmas I wanted to do a take on this recipe, but didn't find any verjus in time, so I subbed in apple cider vinegar and some sugar.
First I soaked the salt cod in clean water over night:
The next day, I drained the fish and cut it into cubes:
I dredged the cubes in a combination of sweet rice flour, potato starch, salt and pepper:
I pan fried the cubes in canola oil - note the use of a handy splatter guard which saved me from getting hot oil in my eye, well after I got hot oil in my eye before employing this amazing device.
Drained fish on a paper towel:
Made a batch of garlic, spinach mashed potatoes with butter and alleppo pepper (I was going for red and green)
Return the fish to the pan with apple cider vinegar (I started with a few tablespoons and wound up with about a 1/4 cup), 2 tbsp of sugar and two handfuls of golden raisins:
I ended up throwing in a few teaspoons of water to loosen the sauce which really tightened up from the rice flour and potato starch.
I really like how it turned out. Salty, sweet, sour and a little odd. Lets face it, salt cod is not for everyone. The texture is a little rubbery and not very fish-like, but in a way that I like to call toothsome. Those who liked it really liked it, the rest of the dinner party sort of avoided that corner of the table.