Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. - Cyril Connolly
Saturday, January 22, 2005
The recipe for Bacalhau fritters on Carnival of the Recipes, made me remember the recipe I got for this dish in Portugal.

Salt Cod, or Bacalhau, is essentially the national dish of Portugal. It's sold in the abundant markets everywhere from Lagos to Oporto, and is fervently consumed in huge amounts. The Portuguese are proud to claim that there are over 1,000 ways to prepare this fish, but this is my favorite - served in a restaurant in the Old Town of Lisbon. There is a very well-known street in Lisbon (close to the river), called Rua do Arsenal (Arsenal Street), but it is better known as Rua dos Bacalhau (Codfish Street) both for the different stores that sell it and the smell in the air around them.

Bacalhau A La Viscaina

1 lb Potatoes, small new scrubbed, boiled, peeled cut into 3/4" chunks
1/4 cup Olive Oil
2 Large Onions, peeled, chop fine, makes 2 cups
3 Garlic Cloves, minced
4 medium Tomatoes, coarsely chopped about 2 lbs, or two 14.4oz cans of tomatoes
1/4 lb Ham diced
1/4 cup Parsley, Italian, chopped
1 tsp Black Pepper
1/8 tsp Cinnamon, ground
pinch Ground Cloves
1 lb Salt Cod
4 Pickled chiles Jalapeno sliced into thin rings (or 2 fresh jalapenos)
4 tbsp Liquid from pickled chiles (or red wine vinegar if using fresh chiles)
12 kalamata olives sliced in half

6 Servings

Soak the Bacalhau for 24 hours, changing the water every four hours, this is critical, or you'll end up with a salty mess.
Gently rinse, to remove the salt.
Do not break up fish.
Boil the potatoes till just tender when pierced with a fork, 15-20 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, reduce the heat to very low and slowly saute about one hour. Stir occasionally, watching that the onion doesn't burn.
A few dribbles more of oil may be necessary.
Turn up the heat, add the garlic and tomato and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture becomes thick and the liquid is substantially reduced, about 10-15 minutes.
Add the ham, parsley, pepper, cinnamon and cloves, then gently stir the cod, potatoes, jalapenos and their juice into the tomato mixture.
Transfer to a 1 to 2 quart casserole, preferably clay (the Portuguese sell special pots just for this purpose), sprinkle with the olives and bake for 30 minutes at 300F
Bacalao a la Viscaina can be made ahead and re-heated in a 300F oven for 20 minutes or until thoroughly hot.

Good French bread and a good red wine (preferably from Rioja) are essential accompaniments.

posted by Broadsheet @ 11:10 AM  
10 Editorial Opinions:
  • At January 22, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sounds yummy!! So I've been wondering since I first saw a recipe for salt cod, is it something you can find in the US? If not, can you substitute regular cod and a whole lot of salt? :)


  • At January 22, 2005, Blogger Broadsheet said…

    Oh yeah - any good grocery store carries it. I've seen it at the Giant and Superfresh. It looks absolutely nasty, but once you soak it, it gets incredibly plump and gorgeous.

  • At January 22, 2005, Blogger Malnurtured Snay said…

    When I cook ... I cook Chef Boyardee. :(

  • At January 22, 2005, Blogger jwer said…

    I'll be right over after I finish the floor... I just bought one of the $99 cases from Bin 604, too...


  • At January 22, 2005, Blogger Malnurtured Snay said…

    You can buy CASES?

  • At January 22, 2005, Blogger jwer said…

    Yeah, in addition to their eminent coolness in presenting me with wine that I will actually like, and being able to tell me why it is good in non-snobby language (although I will confess a bit of wine-snobbery), they also hand-select a case of 12 different interesting bottles every month and charge $99 bottles for it... I say this like I didn't just discover it the other day, of course. Anyway, this month was quite Spanish-heavy, so it'd be perfect with Linda's fritters...

  • At January 22, 2005, Blogger jwer said…

    And by "$99 bottles for it" I mean, of course, "$99 for it"... apparently the gin is having its effect...

  • At January 22, 2005, Blogger Broadsheet said…

    Gin? What - out of Scotch?

    Is there any Tempranillo in your case? They had some good ones for our Girls on Grapes tasting a few months ago. Thought they might have been left with a few extras.

  • At January 22, 2005, Blogger jwer said…

    Not quite, but I felt like a martini. Sort of.

    There is a Borsao grenache/tempranillo mix in the case (instead of the merlot); this has changed slightly, but it's basically right... the Yalumbas were both replaced with equivalents as well.

  • At January 29, 2005, Blogger Tim Worstall said…

    Ah, yes, codfish street. Just outside Cais de Sodre, the station at the end of the line from where I am, Cascais. Salt tuna as well if I remember correctly from the last time I was there a couple of weeks back.
    Wine with the recipe? I’d have thought a Douro, something red and heavy. But then that’s just the way they do it here.

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