Friday, December 23, 2016

A New Year's Eve Cod PIece

I subscribe to an Italian cooking blog called Memorie di Angelina. I enjoy it for its mostly simple dishes.

Borrowed from Memorie di angelina
Today's feature was Filetti di baccalà (Fried Salt Cod Filets). This is a ingredient I have never used, and rarely eaten. My favorite dish using bacalao were the Buñuelos de Bacalao, as made and served in the Cuban restaurant of Morelia, El Bosque de la PlazuelaI have twice had one of the iconic Latin American Christmas and New Year's dishes, the rather oddly composed Bacalao a la Vizcaina.

Borrowed bacalao image
This is a dish, often served at room temperature, of shredded cooked salt cod plus tomatoes, olives, capers, and, I swear, I once had it with a prune. It does, however evoke memories of my first visit, solo, to Mexico City, in January, 1992. I can eat it to be sociable, but really, I'd rather not.

While on a slow train from Cd. Júarez to Zacatecas the year before, we met Silvia, nice lady architect, her two kids and parents. She invited us to look her up if we ever got to Mexico City.

When my plans gelled to attend a language school in Cuernavaca, I wrote to Silvia. She kindly offered to pick me up at the Mexico City Aeropuerto.

My arrival was on the afternoon of New Year's Eve day. She and her parents first drove me to the family home, not far from the airport. New Year's Eve specialty dishes were already waiting to be transported to the site of the celebration. One of those dishes was Bacalao a la Vizcaina. With prune. I was offered the choices of simply going to my hotel, or coming to the NYE celebration. You can imagine which I chose, despite my travel fatigue.

We then divided into two parties. Silvia drove me to my hotel, the Hotel de Cortés, to check in and drop off my luggage. We then drove a considerable distance to Cd. Satélite, where her sister and her husband lived.

Her sister and B.I.L greeted me warmly. I was offered various spirituous drinks.
There ensued extended conversations, me, in my then lame Español, the B.I.L. in fractured English. At one point, he inquired about a management job at my little bakery, back home in Arkansas, leaving me more than slightly nonplussed.

Silvia's parents then arrived with the platters of food. We were invited to take seats in the cozy dining room. Our meal began with tostadas de pollo, if I recall correctly. Then came the bacalao a la Vizcaina. I think it had almonds as well as olives and capers. I, as guest of honor, was given the prune. Oh, yummy!

The B.I.L. proposed a New Year's toast. He had constructed a tower of wine glasses. The trick was to pour the bottle of sparkling wine into the topmost glass, whence it would flow into the lower glasses.

Stock photo
He succeeded, splashing only slightly on the tablecloth! We then went around the table, and offered New Year's wishes as toasts. I think that when my turn came, I said something about amistad internacional y paz en todo el mundo.

As midnight approached, I was really feeling the fatigue of a very long day, so I discreetly requested a departure from Silvia. Eventually, we said our goodbyes and headed outside to the car.

Disaster! If I recall correctly, at least one or more tires had been punctured. We were left with the tedious prospect of getting a lift from another relative, I think Silvia's brother, to the nearest Metro station, which was not close.

So off we went. At the top of the steps of the far western Metro station, ominous street dogs skulked about. There were street urchins, too, who loudly exhorted us to uses a specific turnstile. Who knows? Maybe the had rigged it to allow them to collect coins. It was creepy.

The train came, and we boarded. One or two stations onward, Silvia turned to me and said she was  very sorry, but we had boarded in the wrong direction. We were at the end of the line. Time was running out, for the metro service was about to shut down for the night. We hurriedly climbed tha stairs and then descended to the other side. Gracias a Dios, the last train came and we again boarded.

My stop would be Metro station Hidalgo, at the northwest corner of the Alameda. Silvia advised me to exit, not to linger nor look around, but to head directly to my hotel. Midnight had passed. It was now 1992.

I made it safely to my room, and collapsed into bed, with bacalao memories forever embedded in my brain.

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