Holiday Countdown: David DiBari with Baccala Gratinato


In today’s edition, chef Dave DiBari (UPDATE: who was at Zuppa Restaurant at the time) shows me how hot make baccala gratin, a dish Italian grandmothers all over the world are planning to serve as part of Christmas Eve supper.

Here’s the recipe:

Baccala Gratinato

Serving Size: Serves 4.

By Chef David DiBari of The Cookery and The Parlor, both in Dobbs Ferry.


  • Bechamel sauce (recipe below)
  • 3/4 pound soaked baccala (salt cod)
  • 2 Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups thick béchamel sauce (see related recipe)
  • 2 tablespoons jarred roasted peppers, chopped
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 1 pinch cracked black pepper
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons toasted bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley


  1. Be sure to have your béchamel sauce ready. You can make it one to three days ahead and keep it, covered, in the refrigerator.
  2. Place potatoes in a large pot of water and set on a high burner. Set a bowl with ice water on the counter. Once the water begins to boil, set the timer to 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, add the eggs and cook them together with the potatoes for another 10 minutes. Remove eggs and potatoes from water and place eggs in the ice water. Let potatoes cool, peel, and roughly chop.
  3. Meanwhile, boil the baccala for about 5 minutes, until the meat flakes apart. Chop the baccala into 1-inch thick pieces.
  4. Mix the baccala with 2 cups of béchamel (recipe below), potatoes, roasted red peppers, chopped parsley, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
  5. Place the mixture into your favorite casserole. Top it with the breadcrumbs and bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.
  6. Peel the hard-boiled eggs and separate the yolks from the whites. Press them separately through a fine-mesh strainer so they're crumbled finely.
  7. When the casserole is finished, top it with the eggs and parsley.


Thick Béchamel Sauce


  • 1 quart milk
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced, peeled garlic
  • 4 tablespoons diced Spanish onions
  • 10 tablespoons flour
  • 1 whole clove
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Ground white pepper to taste
  • Salt to taste


  1. Place a medium saucepan over low heat and warm the milk. Do not allow to boil.
  2. Place a medium saucepan over medium heat and melt the butter. Sweat the garlic and onions until they are translucent. Stir in the flour.
  3. Cook over very low heat, being careful not to allow the flour to take on any color.
  4. After the flour mixture has cooked for 10 minutes, gradually pour in the warm milk, whisking continuously, until all of the milk has been added. Add the clove and bay leaf.
  5. Continue to stir until the sauce comes to a boil.
  6. Turn the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes until the raw taste of the flour is cooked out.
  7. Pass the sauce through a fine sieve and season to taste with the salt and pepper.



About Author

Liz Johnson is content strategist for The Journal News and, and the founding editor of lohudfood, formerly know as Small Bites. As food editor, she won awards from the New York News Publishers Association, the Association of Food Journalists and the Associated Press. She lives in Nyack with her husband and daughter on a tiny suburban lot they call their farm — with fruit trees, an herb garden, and a yardful of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, shallots, cucumbers, zucchini, radishes, cabbage, peppers, Brussels sprouts and carrots and four big blueberry bushes.

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