Salt cod—or any salt fish—is one of life’s beautiful accidents, a genius invention born of necessity. Way back when, before refrigeration, some brilliant person (or people) thought to pack fish in salt to preserve it. The salt not only enhances the fish’s flavor, but also intensifies its meaty texture. Versions of salt preserved fish are eaten all over the world, used in Portuguese, Spanish, French, Greek, and Chinese cooking, among others.
These adorable salt cod tartlets, drizzled with a spicy cilantro-jalapeno sauce, are a perfect 2-bite appetizer. They’re rich, crunchy, a bit salty, a bit spicy, and easy to make. To make things extra simple, you can use a store-bought pie crust dough if you like, or use your favorite basic pie crust recipe (I used my gluten-free pie crust for these!) I made my tartlets in a mini cupcake tin. A mini muffin tin would work, too.
Before cooking, the salt cod needs to be rinsed and then soaked in water (in the refrigerator) for 12 to 24 hours, changing the water once or twice. Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to proceed with the recipe.
The filling for these tartlets is a simple olive oil saute of salt cod, onions, garlic, smoked paprika, and a bit of white wine. The sauce is an easy blender puree of fresh cilantro, jalapeno, lime juice, olive oil, and garlic enriched with a touch of mayonnaise. Serve them as an appetizer with a glass of crisp sauvignon blanc, rosé, or bubbly.
For the tartlets
- 1 pound salt cod, rinsed and soaked for 12 to 24 hours, changing the water once or twice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ¾ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup white wine
- 1 recipe pie dough (for a single-crust 9-inch pie)
- ¼ cup finely diced radishes or red onions or another garnish (optional)
For the Cilantro-Jalapeno Sauce
- 1 ½ cups cilantro
- 1 jalapeno (seeded, unless you want it really spicy)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 garlic clove
- juice of 2 limes
- ½ cup of mayonnaise
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
- Drain the salt cod, discarding the water, and place it in a medium saucepan. Cover by about 1 inch with cold water and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes. Drain and let cool.
- Meanwhile, make the sauce. Combine the cilantro, jalapeno, olive oil, garlic, lime juice, mayonnaise, and salt in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
- Once the cod is cool enough to handle, shred or break it into small chunks with your hands, removing any skin, membrane, or bones as you go.
- Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cod, paprika, and pepper and then add the wine. Let cook, stirring, for a few minutes until the liquid is reduced by about half.
- Roll the pie dough out on a lightly floured board. Cut out 2 ½-inch circles using a round pastry cutter. Press each circle into one of the wells of a mini muffin or cupcake tin. Put about a teaspoon of the cilantro-jalapeno sauce in the bottom of each tart shell. Add a spoonful of the filling.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust is golden and crisp. Remove from the oven and drizzle more of the cilantro-jalapeno sauce over the filling. Garnish as desired and serve warm.
Disclosure: I received free product samples for this recipe challenge. All opinions are my own.