Codfish with Txakolí for a Taste of the Basques

Combine this traditional Basque codfish recipe with the local txakolí for a delicious taste of the Bay of Biscay.

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Codfish is one of the main products of the Basque country. In fact, it would be very hard during your journey of the Bay of Biscay and Bilbao to find a restaurant that did not include this special fish. You will find this delicacy cooked in a huge variety of ways, depending on which town you have decided to stop in and, more specifically, which chef you have decided to engage.

The sauces that characterize Basque cooking are largely a product of the chef’s own personal taste. Although the Biscay sauce is commonly believed to be a standard sauce- composed of local red onions with red hot pepper- it evolves in the hands of the great chefs. Although codfish is generally served saturated in some sauce, you will also find the delicacy in a variety of modern recipes. For example, codfish is a basic ingredient in a various salads.

Below, you will find the Gourmed Team’s favorite codfish recipe, one of the most popular, but most traditional, of the region:

Codfish pil pil

Ingredients (for four servings):
4 pieces of codfish filet, desalted according to one’s taste, not coarsely chopped
3 tbs olive oil, acidity 0.4°
5 garlic cloves


After desalting the codfish, remove the scales, and dry it. Place in a saucepan the olive oil and the garlic cloves, cut in slices. When they start to brown, remove them and set them aside. Place the four fish filets in the saucepan until they slightly brown, for about seven to eight minutes. Do not fry. Then place the codfish carefully in another saucepan, taking care that the skin is on top. Add two tablespoons of olive oil, which you have already heated. Leave it for two to three minutes.

Place the saucepan over the heat, pouring in the sauce and adding the rest of the oil, lukewarm. You must take care that it does not boil, because the sauce might separate. Serve with the fish skin on top, and the sauce covering each filet. Finally, add the garlic slices which you had set aside.

Combine this classic dish with the traditional wine of the Basques: txakolí!

It is a live, light wine with a refreshing acidity. The careful vinification techniques which are now implemented, have transformed txakolí from a folk drink into a modern fruity wine, with a slight acidity and low alcoholic degrees. With the help of contemporary winemakers, like the Chueca brothers of the Txomin Etxaniz, the wine has acquired clear expressive aromas, balance, and a discreet acidity.

The indigenous white grape variety Hondarribi Zurri is the main variety from which it is produced, though the variety Belza also plays a role in its production, giving it the desired balance. The appellations of origin are: Getaria, Bizkaiko, Txakolina, Araba. Apart from the white, the rose is an especially popular txakolí, with a seductive rosy color and a fruity taste.

The new txakolí is a modern wine, from traditional varieties with Basque roots. The Τxomín Etxániz 2004 derives from the two characteristic varieties of the region: Hondarribi Zurri and Belza. The color is a light yellow, with greenish tinges. It has an intense aroma of flowers as well as a fruity aroma, with that of the green apple prevailing. It is fresh in the mouth, with a good acidity and a pleasant aftertaste.

This wine enhances the special flesh of the codfish in particular, though it can harmoniously accompany other fish and seafood from the Bay of Biscay.

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