"In order to bring it back to life," says restaurant owner Joe Cerqueira about salt cod, "you have to soak it in water for three or four days." Also known as bacalhau, salt-preserved cod is a staple in Portugal. At Atasca in Cambridge, Cerqueira's chefs use rehydrated salt cod for a number of dishes. In Portugal, he says, there are hundreds of salt cod preparations, including the bacalhau a lagareiro ($16.95), which is on the menu at Atasca. A salt cod fillet is grilled and served with smashed roasted potatoes and grilled onion and pepper, drizzled with hot olive oil and garlic.
Salting and soaking alters the flaky white fish's texture, which is a turnoff for some. "I always ease new people into [this dish]," says Cerqueira, who closed the original Atasca on Broadway two years ago and sold sibling restaurant O Cantinho earlier this month. He says that those new to salt cod often think the fish will be unbearably salty. "If it's soaked properly," says the restaurateur, "it shouldn't be salty at all." Just different and good. Atasca, 50 Hampshire St., Cambridge, 617-621-6991, atasca restaurant.com. - LEIGH BELANGER