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    Wednesday, June 19, 2024

    What do you call a mixture of Kool-Aid and salt cod? My column.

    Rich Swanson’s version of Raspberrie Rally cookies (Rich Swanson)
    Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá (Rich Swanson)

    To hear the online communities tell it, we are in the throes of a national crisis:

    The Girl Scouts have completely sold out of the new cookie flavor, Raspberry Rally.

    Why the fuss? RR is a raspberry-flavored shortbread cookie, about as big as a Ritz cracker, coated with chocolate. That’s it.

    Some lucky buyers have turned to eBay and are reselling them for $25 — $30 a box.

    I sidestepped the folderol and went into the lab to formulate an alternative.

    The cheap and cheerful answer: Kool-Aid.

    I made batches of a standard sugar cookie dough (Food Network / Alton Brown recipe), mixing a packet of KA in with the sugar before creaming it with the butter; 2 packets of the drink mix per 3 cups of flour for a batch.

    Kool-Aid doesn’t make a raspberry flavor, so I tested Blue Raspberry Lemonade, Orange, Mango and Cherry.

    Baked the cookies and let them cool and then used Ghirardelli Chocolate and Vanilla Melting Wafers to coat the backs of each cookie.

    The results were surprisingly good — lotta punchy fruit flavor in a crunchy buttery cookie.

    The standout: Orange... I added extra vanilla to the cookie dough and coated it with the vanilla melts so it would taste like a Creamsicle.

    I oughtta earn a merit badge for that one alone.

    The Cherry version could’ve benefited from some extra vanilla as well. Blue Raspberry was the tangiest of the bunch, and Mango was the mildest flavor of the four.

    This might also be a fun idea if you’re baking with the kids or need something different for a tray of Easter cookies next month.

    Play around with the flavors and have some fun with it. I know I did.

    Moving from pup food to Grup food

    I had collected a few recipes that used salt cod a few years ago. Considering that I live in coastal New England and have access to all sorts of great seafood, salt cod seems like an anachronism. But the salting and drying process changes the texture of the fish, making it sturdier and denser; perfect for soups and casseroles. Still, desalting it is a total pain. Most sources recommend soaking it for 24 hours in cold water in the fridge, changing the water out several times. Through a little bit of testing, I had come up with a method of desalting it on the stovetop, lightly poaching it in 160°F water and was able to desalt 1 lb of cod in just over an hour.

    When I returned to the grocery store to pick up another box of cod, I flipped it over to check the expiration date. Lo and behold, it has printed instructions that completely mirror the desalination method I had figured out on my own. It was there the whole time. If I had only read the box, I would’ve saved myself a couple hours. Sometimes I’m so fixated on solving a problem that I become a moose: beautifully stupid.

    Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá — a Portuguese casserole featuring salt cod and potatoes. This is a traditional recipe, adapted slightly, adding more milk for a creamier sauce and substituting green olives for black olives.

    Ingredients:

    • 1 lb salt cod
    • 2 lbs potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
    • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1/2 cup olive oil
    • 1 to 1.5 cups milk
    • 3 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
    • 1/2 cup green olives with pimento, chopped
    • Salt and black pepper to taste
    • Fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish

    Instructions:

    1. Rinse the salt cod under running water to remove excess salt. Place it in a wide saucepan and submerge in cold water. Set the pan on low heat. Check the temperature of the water and when it reaches 160°F, discard 2 cups of the water into a large stockpot and replace it with 2 cups of fresh water. You will use the discarded fish brine to cook the potatoes for the casserole. Repeat this process over the next 60 to 90 minutes. Don’t let the water come to a simmer. Towards the end of the process, taste a spoonful of the fish brine in the saucepan. Is it palatable? If it is, move onto step two. If it isn’t, just keep adding the water and repeating the process until the water is as salty as you are comfortable with. Don’t worry about taking too much salt out, you can always add salt at the table.
    2. After soaking is complete, drain the cod and cut it into bite-sized pieces.
    3. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
    4. In a large pot, bring the sliced potatoes to a boil in discarded fish brine. Cook for about 8-10 minutes until they are almost tender, but still firm. Drain and set aside.
    5. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the sliced onions and garlic, and sauté for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and translucent.
    6. Add the cod to the skillet with the onions and garlic, and stir to combine. Cook for another 5-7 minutes until the cod is lightly browned.
    7. In a 8x8 baking dish, layer half of the cooked potatoes on the bottom. Then, add a layer of the cod and onion mixture, followed by another layer of potatoes.
    8. Pour the milk over the top of the casserole, and season with salt and black pepper.
    9. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, until the potatoes are tender and the top is golden brown.
    10. After removing from the oven, top the casserole with the sliced hard-boiled eggs and black olives. Garnish with chopped parsley before serving.

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