Polenta cicchetti with baccalà (salt cod)
serves 4 as a starter
250g salt-cod fllets 140ml milk 70ml olive oil, plus extra for cooking 150g instant polenta chopped parsley leaves, to serve Soak the salt cod in cold water, cover it and leave it for 48 hours. This will prevent it from tasting overpoweringly salty.
Drain away the water and cut the fllets in half, then place them in a heavy-based saucepan and cover them with milk – add a little water if you need more liquid. Add a generous pinch of salt and set the pan over a medium heat. Leave the fsh to simmer for 20-30 minutes, until tender. Every now and then, skim off any scum that forms on top of the broth.
Remove the pan from the heat and drain the fsh, reserving a little of its cooking liquid. Spoon the fsh into a large mixing bowl, add a couple of spoonfuls of cooking liquid (just enough to loosen the cod) and mix well with a wooden spoon. Continue creaming the fsh with the spoon as you begin to pour in the oil in a steady trickle. Mix vigorously until you have a soft, creamy paste. Store this in a container in the fridge until you are ready to serve – it will keep well for up to two days.
To prepare the polenta, bring 1½ litres of water to the boil in a saucepan. Add three quarters of a tablespoon of salt and pour in the polenta in a fne stream. Stir continuously with a whisk until you have a thick and smooth mixture. Take the pan off the heat and pour the hot polenta on to a wooden board, then use a spoon to spread it out as evenly as you can, so you have a slab that is 1-2cm thick.
Leave to cool, then cover and store in the fridge until you are ready to serve.
To make up the cicchetti, lightly grease a griddle pan with olive oil and set it over a high heat. Slice the polenta into squares no bigger than 5cm and lay them face-down on the hot pan for a couple of minutes, until warmed through and chargrilled on top. Spoon some
baccalà on to each polenta square and sprinkle with parsley.