Oswald Rivera

Author, Warrior, and Teacher

Category: fish (page 1 of 8)

BACALAO CON HUEVOS (Codfish with Eggs)

Salted cod or bacaloa, is a popular dish in Nuyorican cooking, even to this day, at least in my family. We still eat it frequently with rice. It all goes back to life on the island of Puerto Rico. Salt cod, at the time, was an inexpensive item, easy to find. It was cod packed in salt as a preservative. So, it didn’t’ need refrigeration. Thus, in bygone days, it was available everywhere, not only in the Caribbean but throughout the Mediterranean basin. And, to this day, it’s popular in Spanish, Portuguese, Greek and French cuisine; and prevalent in such far flung places as India and Canada.

As noted, salt cod is high in sodium content. That means it has to be prepared before cooking. This is simple enough: soak the cod overnight in cool water. Drain, then place the cod in a pot or pan of boiling  water to cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes. This removes all traces of excess salt. Finally, drain the cod and, when cool, peel any skin and bones. Then flake so that it is ready to cook. Let me state that most salt cod today is packaged already peeled and boned so, at least, that part of the procedure is taken care of.

Thankfully, the Rivera family has perfected  an easier method to desalt cod. In this case, you place the cod in a pot or saucepan with water to cover and let it stand 20 minutes. Then drain the cod, remove the skin and bones (if not already done), place fish in a skillet and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. This method is quicker than the overnight soaking bit. But, we’re not done yet. The recipe given also calls for achiote,  which is simply cooking 1 tablespoon annatto seeds (found in most supermarkets in 8-oz. jars), in ½ cup olive oil, stirring frequently for 5 minutes. Lastly, straining the oil  into a glass jar or container. The achiote gives the recipe a lovely bright orange-red color and distinctive flavor. If you pressed for time, you can substitute a packet of Goya Sasón or Sa-són Accent mixed in with a tablespoon of olive oil.

Yeah, I know you’re thinking, preparing this dish calls for a lot in terms of time and patience. But, my friends, believe me, it’s well worth it. Once you add the eggs to the codfish, you have a dish suitable for breakfast, lunch or dinner—and one you will go back too time and again.

(Codfish with Eggs)


3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 pound salt cod, prepared for cooking (see above)
3 tablespoons achiote (see above)
6 eggs, lightly beaten


  1. Heat oil in a large frying pan or skillet. Sauté onion and garlic until onion is tender and slightly brown.
  2. Add flaked codfish and achiote coloring. Cook for about 3 minutes.
  3. Add beaten eggs. Sauté over low heat until eggs are scrambled.
    Yield: 4 servings.



Back on the block, this was one of those cheapie dinners that got us through the lean times.  Rice was one of those common staples that we had frequently, and saffron was the ingredient that gave it color and flavor. But saffron, now and then, was expensive. So we would use tomato sauce  and, when times got really bad, tomato juice in lieu of saffron. Fish was also another cheap and natural accompaniment to the rice. The result was a delicious dinner we all enjoyed—regardless of economic circumstances.

In this dish, we would we would poach the fish and then combine it with the rice.  So it ended up as a one-dish meal that was great to behold, and marvelous.

(Red Rice and Fish)


2 cups rice
1¼ cups tomato juice
¼ cup water
1 pound halibut or any form-fleshed fish (cod, haddock, flounder, etc.)
2 cups water
1 bay leaf
2 strips lemon peel
4 whole black peppercorns
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
10 oz. package green peas, cooked to package directions


  1. Wash rice at least three times in cold water and drain to rid it of starch. What in Pennsylvania Dutch country is known as “washing in several waters.”
  2. In a heavy kettle or pot, mix water and tomato juice and bring to a roiling boil. Add rice, cover and simmer on low heat until liquid is absorbed (about 20-25 minutes).
  3. Meanwhile, rinse fish under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Place in a skillet or pan, add 2 cups water, bay leaf, lemon peel, and peppercorns. Bring water to a boil, cover and simmer on medium-low heat for 7-10 minutes or until fish is opaque.
  4. Remove fish from pan and cut into bite-sized pieces. Toss with the rice and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Place rice in a serving dish or platter. Make a well in the center and put in cooked green peas. Sprinkle lightly with paprika and serve.
    Yield: 4-6 servings.


This is a variation on the traditional fish soup we use to have back on the block. On the Island and the barrio, the soup was made with several whole fish. The fish was cut into thick slices, highly seasoned and simmered, while the fish head and tails were used to create a fish stock. Nowadays, fish fillets and water can be used instead of a whole fish.  Instead of water, you can also create your own fish stock by using half water and half clam juice. Also, in  the traditional fish soup, shrimp, clams and even mussels were added.

This recipe simplifies the whole process. It’s Sopa de Pescado y Garbanzos,  i.e. fish soup with chickpeas. You just sauté fish fillets (such as cod, haddock, whitefish, etc.) in olive oil with typical Nuyorican herbs. Add water (or the half water and half clam juice) and let it simmer until done. Add canned garbanzo beans and cook 5 minutes more, That’s it. With a crusty whole loaf, it’s a meal for the ages—and perfect for this time of year.

(Fish and Chickpea Soup)


3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
4 cups water (or half water, half clam juice)
3 sprigs fresh parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or ½ teaspoon dried
1 bay leaf
2 pounds white fish fillets, cut into 1-inch cubes
Juice of ½ lemon
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 (15oz.) cans garbanzo beans, drained


  1. Heat oil in a kettle or pot. Add onion and garlic. Sauté for 3-4 minutes until onion is soft and tender.
  2.  Add water or stock, parsley, oregano, thyme and bay leaf
  3.  Add fish, lemon juice and turmeric. Stir to mix. Cover and simmer on low heat for 15 minutes.
  4.  Add garbanzo beans and simmer 5 minutes longer. Remove bay leaf and serve.
    Yield: 6 to 8 servings.



Today’s recipe, Sauce Alexandre, is simply a mushroom and cream sauce that goes great over poached fish or chicken.

This is not Alexander Sauce, which contains flour, butter, cream, shrimp and crabmeat. Alexander Sauce is part of the French canon of continental sauces.  Sauce Alexandre may, or may not be in that rarified sphere.  I honestly don’t know. This recipe I got from a newspaper clipping years ago. If anyone has more info on this mysterious sauce, please let us know. What I know for a fact is that the sauce is delicious, as noted, specially when served over poached dishes.

Poaching fish or chicken isn’t a big deal. It’s a fairly simple procedure: in a large saucepan or skillet, add ½ cup white wine; ½ onion, peeled and sliced into thin rounds; 2 clove garlic, peeled and crushed; ¼ teaspoon salt; 1/8 teaspoon black pepper; ¾ teaspoon oregano and ½ lemon, sliced. Add 4 fish fillets or 2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Add at least 2 inches of water, and then fish or chicken. Heat over medium heat until water is steaming. Cover and poached for approximately 5 minutes for fish and 10 minutes for chicken. You can test the fish once the flesh flakes easily. As for the chicken, it’s done once an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees F. in the thickest part of the meat. Note that you can also  reserve the poaching liquid for later use, such  as a light broth or soup base, or you can use it in cooking rice, or with stir-fries vegetables.



4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
1 cup chicken broth
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
½ pound mushrooms, washed and sliced thinly (about 3½ cups)
1 tablespoon spoon shallots, peeled and chopped
¼ cup dry whiter wine
1½ cups heavy cream


  1. Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a saucepan. Add flour, stirring with a wire whisk. When blended and smooth, add the chicken broth. stirring vigorously with the whisk. Season with salt and pepper, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. This is called a veloute.
  2.  Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a large saucepan or skillet Add mushrooms, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms give up their liquid. Stir in the shallots and cook until most of the liquid in the saucepan has evaporated.
  3.  Add the wine and cook until almost all of the wine is reduced. Add the veloute and cream. Stir to blend well. Bring to a boil, adjust seasoning if it needs more salt and/or pepper,
    Yield: About 2½ cups.


This recipe is called “Florentine Fish Fry.” Now, according to the experts, “Florentine Style” refers to a dish prepared “a la Florentine,” or in the style of Florence, the city in Italy. Usually, this means it contains spinach and a béchamel sauce with grated cheese (Mornay sauce). This recipe contains none of that. It’s basically breaded fish fillets, fried in butter and olive oil and sprinkled with a butter-lemon sauce. So, why it’s called Florentine Fish Fry, I have no idea. The recipe has been in my possession for years; and whoever I got it from, loved to cook with sage (another ingredient in the dish).  Forget the nomenclature. It’s a great lunch, brunch or dinner dish. With some crusty bead and a lightly chilled wine, it makes for a great meal anytime.

This dish will work with any white, firm-fleshed fillets  such as cod, tilapia, flounder, sole, halibut, catfish, haddock or grouper. I would not recommend it with salmon. It’s delicate flavor would be overwhelmed by the breading and the sauce.



1 pound fresh fish fillets
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons freshly chopped shallots
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 eggs
2 tablespoons water
½ teaspoon ground sage
1 cup dry bread crumbs
¼ cup butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon ground sage


  1. Arrange fillets in a single layer in a shallow baking dish. Mix 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 3 tablespoons olive oil, shallots, salt and pepper. Pour over fillets. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour, turning occasionally. You can also placed in a zip-lock bag and do the same.
  2. Beat eggs, water, salt and ½ teaspoon sage. Dip fillets into egg mixture then dredge in bread crumps.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet or frypan. Cook fillets unto golden on both sides, about 5 minutes.
  4. Remove fillets from pan. Stir in remaining butter and ¼ teaspoon sage. Pour over fillets and serve.
    Yield: 4 servings.



Being a seafood lover, I’m always on the lookout for distinctive ways to cook fish. That being the case, the following recipe, Swiss Baked Fish Fillets I got from as old cookbook on my shelf: Cooking Time Around the World. It’s a cookbook published way back in 1982 by the International Council of Jewish Woman. I do not know if this tome is still in print; but it’s one of my go-to books when I need a good international dish from wherever.

What I like about this recipe is it’s simplicity. All you need is sour cream, Swiss cheese, mustard and scallions, and you have a luscious dinner. In this case, Swiss’s style. This rendition goes great with a gain, be it rice or other, or as we did it this time, over pasta (elbow noodles). It’s filling, and it hits the spot. So, enjoy this one.




2 pounds fish fillets (any variety)
1 cup sour cream
½ cup slivered Swiss cheese
1 teaspoon mustard
Salt and ground black pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2.  Lightly grease a 2½-quart shallow baking pan or dish (we prefer cast iron). Arrange fish in pan. In small bowl combine rest of ingredients. Spread over fillets.
  3.  Bake about 20 minutes until fish is opaque and flakes easily. To brown surface, place baking pan under broiler for 1-2 minutes.
    Yield: 4-6 servings.

BACALAO CON HUEVOS (Cofdish with Eggs)

Bacalao, or salted codfish, is still very popular in the Caribbean. This probably has to do with the fact that in olden days, before refrigeration, encasing fish  (usually cod) in salt was the best preservative. A ship would sail out of New England to say, Newfoundland, catch as much cod as possible,  have it salted and brought back. This became a staple diet in the Caribbean, West and North Africa, Southeast Asia and Southern China. With the advent of refrigeration and the availably of seafood, salt cod lost its cache—but not in our family. We ate it regularly back on the block, and still do. It’s an ethnic thing.

Salt cold, when properly prepared, has a texture and taste unlike any other; and it’s so versatile. In our crowd we cook it in numerous way, whether stewed, in casseroles, with eggplant, with peppers, with rice, you name it. One favorite way, as shown in the following recipe, is with eggs.  It’s a dish good for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. You can serve it as it with bread or pair it with your favorite grain or pasta, as we did this time around  with linguini. You can even make sandwiches out of it.

One of the reason salt cod lost its popularity is because, due to its salt content (duh?) it must be prepared for cooking. The usual procedure is to soak it in water to cover for at least 6 hours or, better yet, overnight. Then drain and rinse under cold running water, and again place in a pot with water to cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes or so. Now the cod is mostly salt-free. You can flake it and it’s ready to cook. There is an easier method if time is a problem: place cod in a pot or pan with water to cover and let it stand 15-20 minutes. Then drain the cod,  place in a skillet and cook over low heat for 5-6 minutes. This ensures that the salt content is removed. We should note that, these days, in most places salt cod already comes with the skin and bones removed. So, no problem there. This makes it the more easier to prepare. Yes, I know, you’re saying, Why go through all this bother when I can buy any other fish and just heat  it up? Well, because as Tevye said in Fiddler on the Roof: “It’s Tradition!” Look, just try the thing. You’ll be surprised on how delicious this recipe is. Not only that, you’ll be contributing to the history of an edible that has been with us since time immemorial.

And, one last thing. The recipe calls for achiote, that Puerto Rican ingredient that is also used for flavor and coloring. Achiote is simply dried annatto seeds which can be found in Latino or Asian markets. All you do  is, in a small skillet, heat ½ cup olive oil, add 1 tablespoon of annatto seeds (in most supermarkets they come in 8 oz. jars), turn heat to low and cook the seeds, stirring frequently for 5 minutes. During cooking the oil will turn a bright red-orange color. Remove from heat, let cool, place in a glass jar or container and refrigerate. That’s it. As mentioned, you can use the achiote to give food that bright red-yellow hue and enhance its flavor. Among other things, it make perfect yellow rice without spending loads of cash on saffron.

(Codfish with Eggs)


3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 pound dried salt cod, prepared for cooking (see above)
3 tablespoons achiote (see above)
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
6 eggs, lightly beaten


  1. Heat oil in a large frying pan or skillet. Add onion and garlic and sauté until onion is tender and slightly brown.
  2. Add flaked codfish, achiote coloring and oregano. Cook for about 3 minutes.
  3. Add beaten eggs. Sauté over low heat until eggs are scrambled to taste.
    Yield: 4 servings.


Here’s a treat: a sauce that can accommodate both meat and fish. We have it in Shallot Butter Sauce. Also, it’s so simple and so refined, it will transform a lowly pork chop or lamb chop, not to mention a fist steak, into a glorious dish. All you need is three basic ingredients: shallots, butter and a bit of white wine. That’s it. You can serve the dish with whatever accompaniment you like, be it rice, pasta or potatoes. We, in the Rivera clan, like it with a good hearty loaf of bread to sop  up the sauce as you enjoy the lamb  or pork chops (or fish).

The other thing that needs discussion is the time factor in terms of the item used with this sauce, I like to cook pork chops at an oven temperature of 375 degrees F.  It take about  25 minutes to cook depending on thickness. Some cooks prefer a 400 degree oven because it cooks faster. But I find that at the lower temperature, pork chops remain  tender and juicy rather than drying out. The same for Lamb chops. They take about 35-40 minutes to cook at 375º and 8-10 minutes at 400º.  Note that the longer baking time will give you a well done product. In my family we like chops well done. If you want medium or rare, then the baking time will be less. For fish steaks, it’s another story. It’ll be 25-30 minutes at 375º and 15-20 minutes at 400º.  How long to cook or how tender you want the product will be up to you.



3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
½ stick butter (or more to taste)
3 tablespoons white wine, dry or sweet (your preference)


  1. In a saucepan or skillet, melt butter over medium heat.
  2.  Add shallots and cook, stirring until onion is soft, about 3-4 minutes.
  3.  Add wine and cook 3 minutes more.
  4.  Pour over 4 pork chops, lamb chops or fish steaks and bake in a preheated oven until tender (see above).
    Yield: 4 servings.


This meal came out of necessity. We had fish fillets on hand, and what do we do with them? I’ve cooked fish in every way possible, but this time I wanted something simple and quick. No fancy stuff. We wanted something tasty and economical. Thus, fillets with cheese and bread. What could be simpler than that? And if you look in your cupboard, I’m sure there’s some breadcrumbs in there. If not, just take any bread and grate it in a blender or food processor. As to the cheese, any cheese will do. We did it with blue cheese. But you can use cheddar,  parmesan, mozzarella, Romano, or even good ole American cheese.  Remember: this is an inexpensive, improvised meal—That will have guests and family clamoring for more.

This dish goes well with French fired and a simple salad or, better still, rice and pasta. Use your imagination, folks. Also, the fish fillets used can be any firm-fleshed fish fillets, be it cod, haddock, perch, whiting, bass, grouper, catfish, snapper, etc. The dish accommodates every taste and fancy.



4 medium-sized fish fillets
1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
Salt and black  pepper to taste
½ cup butter
¼ cup flour
¼ cup milk
¾ cup light or heavy cream (your choice)
1½ cups grated cheese
2/3  cup grated cheese


  1. Wash fillets under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Rub all over with the oregano, salt and pepper.
  2. In a large skillet or frying pan, melt ¼  cup butter over moderate heat. When the foams subsides, add the fish and fry for 5 minutes on each side. Using a spatula, transfer the fish to a warmed flameproof serving dish (we prefer cast-iron).
  3.  In the original pan, melt the remaining butter over moderate heat. Remove the pan from heat and, using a wooden spoon, stir in the flour to form a smooth paste.  Gradually add the milk and cream, stirring constantly and being careful to avoid lumps. Return the pan to the heat and cook the sauce, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes until it is smooth and fairly thick and hot but not boiling. Remove pan from heat and pour the sauce over the fish.
  4.  Preheat the broiler to high. Sprinkle the cheese and bread crumbs over the fish. Place the fish under the broiler and broil for 3-5 minutes or until the top is golden brown and bubbling. Remove the serving dish from the grill and serve immediately.
    Yield: 4 servings.


I had some fish fillets om hand and I needed a quicky recipe. So, I created this gem:, pouched fish fillets in an onion sauce. Now, for some explanation: Poaching is a cooking technique that involves heating food submerged in a liquid, such as water, milk, stock or wine. Poaching is differentiated from the other “moist heat” cooking methods, such as simmering and boiling; and ii uses a relatively lower temperature. There are three basic methods for poaching; shallow, submerge, or deep-poaching. Fish fillets are excellent for poaching. In the recipe given I used the shallow water cooking method. I also decided to use a good, easy and quick to prepare sauce to go with the fish. Onion Sauce came to mind, and it worked out pretty good.

The recipe itself  is multifaceted in that it can be served with pasta, a grain ( like rice, couscous, quinoa) or like we did it this time, with kasha (buckwheat groats).  Thanks to my Jewish Brethren, I’ve developed a fondness for kasha.



4 fish fillets of your choice, about 6-8 ounces each
½ cup white wine
8 whole peppercorns
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt to taste


  1. Wash fillets under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Place all the ingredients, except the fish, in a large skillet and add at least 2 inches of water. Heat the water on medium high heat until it is steaming. The water should be moving around but not bubbling.
  3.  Slide the fillets into the water. reduce heat to medium low, cover and cook approximately 8-10 minutes to poach. The pouching time will vary depending on the thickness of the fish. Once the fillets are tender to your satisfaction, carefully remove the fish to a serving dish or platter, using a slotted spatula. Serve immediately with Onion Sauce (recipe given below).
    Yield: 4 servings.



2 onions, peeled and slice thinly in circles
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons flour
2 vegetable  bouillon cubes
1 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley


  1. Heat olive oil in a skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until golden.
  2.  Add flour, bouillon cubes and water. Turn heat to low and blend, stirring constantly until sauce has a smooth, gravy-like consistency.
  3.  Pour sauce over fillets, garnish with parsley and serve



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