Bacalhau. I would venture to say that bacalhau, or salted cod, is the ubiquitous dish of the Azores and Portugal. It is found on nearly every Portuguese restaurant menu and every Portuguese household has tasted this dish. There are so many different variations of the ways in which to make bacalhau and all of them are so tasty.
The concept of preserving cod fish by salting it the way that the Portuguese, and many other European nations have, goes back centuries. The fisherman used this technique in order to preserve the cod on their long voyages, and this method and the recipes that followed have been passed down through the generations. It is one of the, if not the, dish of Portugal.
Today I am making Bacalhau with Cream, and this recipe is one from my grandmother, Teodora. I always remember her making this recipe or variations of it, and it is not an exaggeration to say that this would be my vote for my last meal. I will be making different bacalhau dishes later on, because there are so many, and all of them I love!
Unless you have the fortune of living near a Portuguese market, I was able to find the salted cod at a local Asian market where the supply of all sorts of fresh fish was beautiful to see! Their fish section had the salted cod, perfectly packaged. I have also found it at Italian markets. In all its hard-earned glory, here is the recipe below. Enjoy!
Yields: 8 servings
2 pounds salted cod, soaked in water
5 medium potatoes or 4 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large yellow onions, sliced thin
2-3 garlic cloves, sliced thin
3 teaspoons corn starch
2 cups half-and-half
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Pepper, to taste
Note: Soak cod overnight in a pot of cold water or up to at least 12 hours, changing water 2-3 times.
1) Once cod has been soaked overnight or for up to 12 hours, place it in a large pot or Dutch Oven, filled with cold water, and bring to a boil. Cook cod for approximately 10-12 minutes or until cooked and tender all the way through. Once cooled, break apart into chunks, removing bones and skin.
2) Preheat oven to 375°. Lightly spray a baking sheet and spread potatoes evenly onto it. Bake for 30 minutes or until potatoes are lightly browned. Set aside.
3) In a large skillet, add olive oil and saute onions until translucent and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for an additional minute or two. Set aside.
4) In a medium-sized bowl, mix corn starch with 2 tablespoons of the half-and-half until smooth and no clumps remain. Whisk in egg yolks and remaining half-and-half. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese into bowl and add pepper, to taste.
5) Add onions, garlic, and potatoes into the pot with the cod. Mix until all are well incorporated into one another.
6) Lightly spray a 15 x 10 baking dish. Pour cod mixture into the dish and spread evenly. Pour half-and-half mixture over the cod, distributing evenly. Sprinkle additional pepper and Parmesan cheese over the mixture, as desired.
7) Bake, uncovered, for approximately 45 minutes at 375°. Cook until potatoes are browned, and a toothpick comes out clean, when poked through the center. Half-and-half mixture should be creamy, not gelatinous.