Salt Cod Fritters at O Lavrador, a Portuguese Restaurant in Jamaica, Queens

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At 75 cents apiece, these baccalao fritters make a great meal or bar snack.

Codfish made the European Age of World Exploration possible. It fed the sailors who manned the globe-circumnavigating ships. It fed the enslaved Africans who worked the plantations established in the New World. It was one of the world's most valuable commodities, contended over by fishermen from every European power with a coastline.

Cod was exploited and traded, not as the fresh or frozen product available today (and whose stocks are severely depleted), but in its heavily salted and dried form, known to the Portuguese as baccalao. By the early 16th century, the Portuguese had discovered vast stocks of the fish off the Newfoundland coast, and it was one of the things that made their co-domination of the world possible during that era, when they had far-flung colonies all over the globe.

Baccalao was--and still is--extensively eaten all over Portugal, though now what is called salt cod is usually really pollock, a less endangered fish. It's made into stews and fritters, and each community has its own recipe, in fact it is often said that the Portuguese have 1001 methods of making it. One of the most popular is mixing the soaked and desalinated hunks of fish with potatoes and green onions, and frying it in tapered fritters.

These fritters are available for 75ȼ apiece as a bar snack at O Lavrador, a rather grand restaurant in the small Portuguese enclave that persists even today in a hidden neighborhood south of downtown Jamaica, an industrial area of factories, empty lots, and frame houses.

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