Thursday, November 6, 2008

Bacalhau e todo bem!

Yes indeed Portuguese salt cod and everything is good! For many years now Zola and I have traveled and enjoyed the wonder that is salt cod in a number of preparations, in a number of countries. A magnificent fillet with white bean casserole in Barcelonetta,  Barcelona. Brandade du Morue in our favorite french bistro in Seattle (Le Pichet). Acorda (pronounced Ashorja) and other Bacalhau delights in Lisbon. And finally many various preparation (pastels, fritters, stews and croquettes) in the food menagerie that is Brazil.  Long has been the passing time from the first tasting to the fateful day last week when finally Bacalhau was discovered at PFI grocery in Seattle's international district! And indeed purchased by this very writer. 

Having just returned from an invigorating trip to Brazil, Zola and my interest in preparing our own bacalhau was rekindled, and what follows is two recipes The first is borrowed from Anthony Bourdains "Les Halles Cookbook", it's a french bistro standard/classic called Brandade Du Morue.
 Essentially a baked dip of salt cod served in its baking apparatus, a ramekin. As the preparation of salt cod is an undertaking in it's own right, I took the opportunity to double-up if you will, using half the cod prepared to make a Brazilian lunch counter mainstay, Bolinhos de bacalhau, literally "little balls of salt cod". These are essentially small croquettes of  potato and salt cod, deep fried and served through out the day as a snack. I'll begin with the Brandade as that was how the Cod was prepared, the left over was used to make the Bolinhos. 

First things first, salt cod is a 24 hour preparation. The fillets will come frozen in the USA due to this country's bug phobia and strict quarantine laws. The whole idea of Bacalhau is so that Portuguese fisherman in the north sea could preserve their catch centuries before the invention of refrigeration. I digress, essentially you treat your frozen fillet the same, place in cold tap water for 24 hours, changing the tap water every hour for the first few hours. We let ours sit overnight and did a couple of changes the next morning and everything was fine. It's fine to taste your uncooked bacalhau along the way to see if it's too salty. 

One pound of cod was enough for both dishes. The initial cooking of the cod was used for both dishes. Bring a 1/2 cup of full cream to the boil with 4 crushed cloves of garlic and a bouquet garni (that's 2 sprig of Thyme, 1 sprig of flat parsley and a bay leaf tied up in a cheese cloth parcel). At the boil, add the fish (1/2 lb) and reduce heat to a simmer, poach the cod like this for 6 minutes, it should be a little flaky by this point, so retrieve from the pot with a slotted spoon. The Bouquet and the garlic stay in as you continue to reduce the cream at a boil for 10 minutes. Set the cod aside.

 After the reduction, fish out (ha, ha!) the Bouquet and the garlic, combine the reduced cream with 1/2 cup EV olive oil. Add this liquid to the cod that you have mushed up with your fingers (hmmm, cod finger smells). Slowly mix the liquid and cod with a wooden spoon. Add in some cracked black pepper (and maybe some salt if you de-salted your cod too aggressively). Stir in 2 sprigs of chopped parsley, portion out into a couple of mid sized ramekins top with bread crumbs, and head for the oven. Our method, bake at 500 degrees for 10 minutes, finish under a low broil until bread crumbs are brown. Serve with sliced french bread. Swoon with delight!

Now the Bolinhos! You've still got a 1/2 pound of cod if you did a whole pound. An option would be to poach the cod in a cup of water with the same herb preparation, if you were doing separate dishes. For the bolinhos make two dry cups of mashed potato (use a russet it's good and starchy). Shred the cod with your fingers, stir into the mash potatoes with some chopped flat parsley, some cracked pepper and salt if needed. I had quite a few of these while in Brazil and salty was the apparent preferred savour. 
Now the trick is to roll the balls into 2 inch diameter spheres, roll them in some bread crumbs and deep fry 
until golden brown. We endorse the Cuisine Art mini deep fryer in the Maddison household.  Serve to friends as we did at a suitable festive occasion. Ours went down a treat at a joyous party celebration of Barack Obama's monumental election. It's true they go great with champagne!

1 comment:

Larry Rains said...

Wow. I seriously miss these little fried balls of fishy goodness. I am always hesitant to fry things at home. Maybe i should look into the mini deep fryer???