Hake cococha in green sauce with coquinas, in Etxebarri (Atxondo, Vizcaya).

This succulent marine delicacy accepts recipes of all kinds, from pilpil to candied. And although the most frequent are hake and cod, there are also tuna, salmon and even ray

Grilled, pilpil or battered. What a holy trinity may appear in Elkano as the stars of this house in Guetaria, where Aitor Arregi blames his father, Pedro Arregi (who died in 2014), and the sailors who provide them with the practice of having a good kokotxas gelatinous day grill He even has it dated: «They passed them through the grill for the first time in 2003», they calculate in the Gipuzkoan dining room, one of the sacred addresses - together with Extebarri (Atxondo, Vizcaya) and Ibai (San Sebastián) - to try this delicacy.

But not so long ago they were discarded, treated as a second product, sold with other so-called offal of fish (from roe to guts) or were destined for fishermen's food. However, this jelly and juicy piece is a true gastronomic jewel. The cococha is "a very popular delicacy , " according to the Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy, which defines it as "each of the fleshy bumps that exist in the lower part of the hake and cod's head."

In three styles (grilled, battered and in sauce), in Kaia (Guetaria, Guipúzcoa).

Beard, double chin ...

Its name comes from the Basque word kokotxa , which means chin. Actually, the two cocochas - sometimes cataloged as marine viscera - that each fish has are under it , in the lower jaw, just before the gills, so that they serve as separation with the respiratory system. That is, «the cococha is the double chin. Those from before called it bizarre or bixarra, which is the beard of hake ”, rounds out its definition Aitor Arregi.

It also seems that it was in the Basque Country where they began to cook and give them the culinary value that these pieces deserve, rich in quality proteins, vitamins and minerals, with a low fat content, contrary to what they may appear.

Corresponds to Cristino Álvarez -journalist and gastronomic writer disappeared two years ago- an anecdote that provides a good fact: María Cristina de Habsburgo, mother of Alfonso XIII, knew about the cocochas in green sauce when she spent the summer in San Sebastián, in 1902. That dish only s and dispatched in some gastronomic society of San Sebastian, which only men could enter . Finally, the Regent managed to be sent a ration, according to Álvarez. For his part, Ignacio Domenech included several recipes in the Basque cuisine (Laurak-bat), a book published in 1935.

Hake with onion, galley and cauliflower, in Tula (Jávea, Alicante).

Glistening and fleshy, they are a real delicacy. Very fragile, without spines and with a "Y" shape, they provide a jelly-like and juicy texture, a delicate bite and an elegant marine flavor. When they were gaining prestige, they were increasing their price, since it is not necessary to forget that to obtain a ration a few copies of fish are needed .

Its great culinary ally is its gelatinosity - although the texture changes depending on the preparation -, especially in recipes such as pilpil (emulsion in which the cococha juices are linked with olive oil). They also lend themselves to confit or batter (only in egg or also with flour), prepare on the grill or grilled and cook in green sauce .

The "queens" of the recipe

The most used are those of hake and cod . The former are usually fresh and from the Cantabrian and have an intense flavor. The second ones look pinker and gelatinous, so they give rise to good pilpil dishes, although for this they must be fresh or have been frozen fresh, since the desalted ones would lose that gelatinous power in part.

Cocochas al pilpil, battered and grilled, in Elkano (Guetaria, Guipúzcoa).

However, there are no rules, since these delicate and small pieces open up a whole world of possibilities. In Etxebarri, grill in Atxondo (Vizcaya), Bittor Arginzoniz embroiders both: the cod, which is served battered with red pepper, and the hake, in green sauce with coquina, among other creations . In the Ibai San Sebastian -which with Etxebarri and Elkano composes the trilogy from which we started-, Alicio Garro confers the hake at low temperature in oil, making the most of his gelatinosity , while serving them in green sauce and with a delicate egg batter.

This custom, almost declining, of serving them under various presentations, even as a tasting, has been spreading from the Basque Country , with more tracks such as Kaia ( Getaria ) and its Cocochas in three styles (grilled, battered and in sauce) , until Madrid, with addresses such as Askuabarra , where grilled hake and batter are dispatched, and Carbón Negro , an urban grill where you can find a real trilogy: pilpil, grilled and battered.

Tuna cococha, veal juice, sweet potato and 'physalis', in Magoga (Cartagena).

National tour

The collection of classic Basque recipes are completed in San Sebastian land with more elaborations of hake cocochas: sauteed with garlic, chilli and parsley in Portuetxe and breaded and in sauce in Rekondo . And the tribute extends through the national territory. In Madrid, José Manuel de Dios prepares some hake, roasted, in green sauce and with potatoes in La Bien Aparecida ; in Pedro Larumbe they opt for pilpil and egg and potatoes as garnishes and in the centenary Los Galayos submit to the same elaboration some cod. Also in A Mundiña ( La Coruña) you opt for hake and pilpil, as in the Salamanca house Pucela , which are served battered, while in Andra Mari (El Campello, Alicante) bet on cod and pilpil .

But not only the traditional recipe lives the marine gill. In Toc Al Mar (Begur, Gerona) you can try a sweet rice with cod cocochas and black sausage ; at AMA Taberna (Tolosa), the young Javi Rivero and Gorka Rico take them to an omelet; in La Radio, new premises of Pepe Solla in Santiago de Compostela, they are offered with fabes. In Casa Teva (Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Gerona), the pilpil hake is served with peas and black truffle and sometimes with perrechicos ; in Tula (Jávea), some hake accompanied by onion, galley and cauliflower; In La Cabra (Madrid), Javier Aranda turns them into a croissant filling and in La Ancha , the Redruello saga has added to its traditional hake in green sauce a scramble of hedgehogs, cocochas and potatoes.

Croissant of 'kokotxas', in La Cabra (Madrid).

"Haute cuisine"

Their delicacy makes them perfect allies of creative haute cuisine. Thus, the Basque chef Josean Alija ( Nerua , Bilbao) signs a subtle and elegant elaboration, cod kokotxas al pilpil , although there are other recipes such as hake with cabbage and green sauce. In Cenador de Amós (Villaverde de Pontones, Cantabria), Navarrese chef Jesús Sánchez reinterpreted in his last season Hake in green sauce , «a classic and very traditional dish that all the chefs have eaten and praised . Our proposal consists of a veil of parsley under which we place some cocochas of hake al pilpil, which we bathe on top with a green sauce with a seaweed and smoothie with borage leaves. We finish with cockles and some dice of a galangal jelly », point out from this dining room that by 2020 - they start the season on Wednesday, March 4 - they will advance another reissue of the dish.

Beyond hake and cod

Salmon, Dabiz Muñoz prepares to serve on the palm of the client's hand in what he defines as "enlightened gochism, carbonates with his hands to suck his fingers." On the salmon cococha, its washed eggs are placed in sake, veil of lightly smoked Iberian jowl, emulsion of egg yolk macerated in cut stick and salt and, finally, topped with a fried egg white. It is accompanied by a cream of pecorino or sour cheese matured with basil gel. That is, a real party to eat from a bite and from the hand itself turned into a plate (yes, previously sanitized with a damp napkin).

Cocochas trilogy, in Carbón Negro (Madrid).

María Gómez, owner with Adrián Marcos de Magoga (Cartagena), makes some very sweet red tuna cocochas with veal sauce, sweet potato and physalis . On the other hand, Javier Rodríguez Ponte, Taky, employs some stripe in Catering Bokaté (La Coruña) . «They are very similar in texture and shape to those of monkfish, although not as tight and have the particular flavor of the line. It is a great product, ”says the Galician cook, who prepares stews - his favorite recipe - pilpil, battered and even pickled. In AC DC (Santiago de Compostela) monkfish are shipped to the meunière , a product that in Mesón de Herves (La Coruña) becomes a spatter with crayfish .

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