My entire house has smelled like a McDonald’s deep fryer for an entire week. Fried oil has seeped into the carpets and walls, and has stubbornly clung to mine and my family’s clothes. It’s actually been a pleasant change of pace from the typical scent of a wet dog. The culprit behind the oil stench is my mistake of opening up any windows to get some fresh air while frying up a traditional dish.
March 25th is a double national holiday of Greece, marking a special day of both religious and political events. It’s a spiritual day dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the Annunciation of the Theotokos, when the Archangel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary that she would bear a child. It’s also a day that marks the start of the War of Greek Independence when the Greeks demanded their independence after living in centuries under the Ottoman Empire. It’s a day of joyous gatherings and celebration. On March 25th, Greeks will fill the streets for parades to celebrate the historic day and blue and white flags will raise proudly from their hands.
Such a day calls for a big feast day in the Greek Orthodox Church and Greek dinner tables. Although the day falls during Great Lent, where one must abstain from meat, eggs, dairy products, fish, wine and oil, there has been an exception to that rule. On this day, as well as Palm Sunday, the church permits fish to be consumed. The most popular catch is bakaliaros (cod) to make a spectacular meal, bakaliaros skordalia (fried cod and garlic sauce).
The cod used for the dish is typically salt cod, which must be soaked in water for at least 24 hours in order to extract the salt. If short on time or patience, fresh cod can also be used right away. When ready, the fish is dipped into a lightly spiced beer batter and submerged into hot oil. The result will be light and crunchy pieces of cod. To go along with the cod is skordalia, a garlic sauce that pairs perfectly well with the fish. Together, it’s a delicious reminder of the triumph of March 25th.
Bakaliaros (Cod Fritters)
- 2 lb. cod*
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dredging
- 1 cup water
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper salt
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 12 oz beer of choice
- canola oil, for frying
- Pat the cod dry with a paper towel and cut into bite sized pieces. Dredge each piece of fish in flour and a little salt, shaking off any extra flour and set aside.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, and paprika. Pour in water and beer and whisk until the batter is smooth with no lumps. Add extra water if needed.
- Heat oil in deep frying pan (about 350 degrees F) and dip the cod pieces into the batter, and then carefully immerse into the hot oil.
- When one side is crispy and golden brown, flip and cook on the other side until cooked. Place the pieces of cod on a paper towel to drain. Repeat the process until all the fish is cooked.
- Serve warm with a side of skordalia and pita bread and enjoy!
If you’d like, you can use fresh cod.
Skordalia (Garlic Dip)
- 2 large russet potatoes
- 5 garlic cloves, or more
- salt and white pepper, to taste
- ½ cup extra virgin oil, plus more for drizzling
- 2 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice (or red wine vinegar)
- 2 Tablespoon club soda
- Wash the potatoes and place them (skin on) in a large pot of water. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are fork tender (about 15-20 minutes).
- Drain and cool the potatoes. When cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes and cut into cubes. *It is important to work with the potatoes while they’re hot.
- Place the potatoes in a food processor and blend until smooth. Blend in the garlic, and salt and pepper. Gradually add the olive oil until smooth and creamy. Repeat with the lemon juice.
- Slowly add in club soda for a smooth texture. Add more olive oil, vinegar, and seasoning to taste.
- Drizzle with olive oil on top. Serve and enjoy!