were instrumental in its discovery, which, alas, they weren’t. Nearly ve hundred years before the Portuguese began shing for cod in the Grand Banks o the coast of Newfoundland, the Vikings had stumbled upon one of the world’s largest caches of cod and gured out how to air-dry the sh. Not long after, the wily Basques cornered the cod market because not only did they have an uncanny ability to keep mum about where they were getting such top-shelf stock, they also gured out that salting the sh before drying it made it last even longer. Of course, they had a global (and unwitting) partner: the Catholic church, whose laws demanding a staggering number of meatless days practically lined Basque pockets with gold. Nonetheless, once the Portuguese, excellent seamen themselves, discovered the secrets, they wasted no time in catching up. But salt cod today isn’t like the cod of centuries ago—or even several decades ago. I remember when I was six years old walking into the local grocery, the oor strewn with sawdust, and watching my grandfather ip through big boxes of bacalhau, turning over massive hard planks of the stu , trying to nd the right cut, the right thickness. He’d thwack his hands together every once in a while to clean them, so thickly encrusted with salt were the pieces. Nowadays, the cod is mildly salted and in some cases, such as pieces that are sold in plastic bags, isn’t even entirely dry. While it took two, sometimes three, days to desalt and rehydrate a loin of cod when I was a kid, it can now be done in as little as a day, depending on the piece and supplier. The reason why salt cod is so prized in the Portuguese community, besides being a cheap and shelf-stable staple, is because the drying and salting gives a superior taste and texture to an otherwise characterless sh. When a meaty slab of bacalhau is properly desalted and cooked, it will ake perfectly and have just the slightest toothsomeness. But what exactly is properly desalted cod? To some, it’s cod without any trace of salt. To others, like my father, it still has a bit of a salty bite. I prefer to remove almost all of the salt, so I’m left with something resembling a wellseasoned piece of fish. Look for salt cod, preferably from Norway, in Portuguese, Italian, Greek, Spanish, or Latin markets. I’ve also had very good luck with several online purveyors (see Sources). Buy the thickest, rmest pieces possible; they’ll make for a more substantial meal and a prettier presentation.