Continuing with portuguese recipes, this delicious dish I first tried here in Spain in a Portuguese restaurant whose specialty was “bacalhau” (salted cod). From what I’ve read, the portuguese were pioneers on this way of conservation through dehydration by means of salt back in the 16th century. Although I am often reluctant about how authentic foreign cuisine restaurants really are (as often they must adapt to local taste and lose their genuinity), I must admit that this one was faithful to it’s traditions (after contrasting with the same dishes tried in Portugal). At the time I didn’t know that, but when on the shared (and filling) degustation menu they brought “bacalhau dourado” I could have finished it all on my own! I absolutely loved it!
I have to say that I do like salted cod, when it’s good quality (not dry with “scourer” texture!! which sadly happens way too often) and not overcooked…I like it raw on salads (shredded or thinly sliced), confit to butter-soft consistency on its own or with other sauces like traditional “pil pil” or “salsa verde” or a caramelised tomato sauce with fried peppers. Also delicious fried with a beer paste (like fish & chips) or like a dip in brandade amongst others. But this presentation was absolutely new to me and I already wanted it to be part of my repertoire! Basically it’s a sort of creamy scrambled eggs mixed into matchstick-size fried potatoes, almost caramelised onions and confit shredded cod. It reminds me of our comforting “huevos rotos” but more refined and super tasty!!
On our trip to Portugal I couldn’t find it on any of the restaurants’ menus…until half-way through our trip we asked for a cod dish named “bacalhau à Braz” which we had no clue what it was. And there it was! the same dish I’d been searching for! Apparently, in Portugal it is often known as “bacalhau à Brás” or “à Braz” honouring it’s creator whose surname was Brás but at that time the “s” was often written as a “z”, thereby both names are used interchangeably. It is only in areas close to Spain that it’s renamed as “bacalhau dourado”. In analogy to Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”…However you decide to call it, it will be equally delicious! So I strongly encourage you to try it. The recipe that follows can be adapted to make it “express” using rehydrated salted cod and a bag of matchstick fried chips, if your excuse is a matter of time!I hope you enjoy it as a starter or main dish! Since it’s quite filling, a side salad would be nice!
Bacalhau à Braz
(enough for 2 main dishes)
250g rehydrated salted cod (or about 200g salted cod)
450g potatoes (better if they are on the “floury” side)
3 bruised whole garlic cloves
~35-40g extra virgin olive oil (for the onions and cod)
oil for deep frying the potatoes
3 or 4 eggs (60g each)
salt and freshly milled black pepper
Some parsley for decoration (or fresh coriander)
optional: some black olives for decoration
If you have salted cod, which I always prefer to buy to hydrate and desalt myself, wash off excess salt and place it in a tupperware large enough to hold the cod pieces side by side and 3 times their volume of cold water and place in the fridge.
Ideally the whole pieces will take anywhere from 36 to 40 hours depending on how big they are. And the water must be changed about 4 times replacing it with the same volume every time. You don’t want to remove all the salt from the fillets, just to hydrate and remove excess salt, so if in doubt pick a little bit of flesh from the center to taste how salty it is.
I hydrated two fillets, one for this recipe and the other for something else…once hydrated, which is what takes time, if I am not going to use it within a day I dry it well, wrap it in kitchen paper and then film it and freeze it. It keeps great and then you just need to pull it into the fridge the day before you want to use it!
Peel and cut your potatoes. I have a mandoline that slices into matchstick strips so I used it to save some time. But to be honest, if I have the time, I prefer to cut them myself slightly larger, as they have more “body” in the dish. If you have to do it yourself, slice each potato into thin rounds lengthwise and then place them together to slice into thin strips.
Before frying it’s best to wash off excess starch so they don’t stick to each other and drain them well.
Deep fry over high heat otherwise they’ll soften and soak up oil
Cut the onion in fine julienne…
Then place it with the bruised garlic cloves and the 35g of olive oil into a pan large enough to fit the fried potatoes and the cod and fry over low heat until very soft and starting to go golden brown. I always add some salt to fry the onions…but if you think your cod is still slightly salty do not add any salt to these or later on as the cod will season enough!
At this point you can remove the cloves or leave them in if you like.
For cooking the cod there are various options. You could add the whole fillet to the onion and slowly cook it and then separate it into it’s own flakes. Also, you could confit the fillet with olive oil slowly in a separate pan and then flake it and add the flakes into the onion to keep the mix drier. The way I did it was to shred the raw fillet itself and add that to cook slowly (you DO NOT want to overcook it) with the onion. But if you prefer to see flakes rather than shredded cod, choose the other method.
Finally, you have two choices: to add the chips into the mix first and then add the beaten eggs to that, which will result in a creamier, softer bacalhau à Braz or you can scramble your beaten eggs slowly into the cod-onion mix and when starting to become creamy add in the chips which will result in a more crunchy dish as the potato will not soak up the egg, so it will soften less and maintain it’s texture. It’s up to your taste!
It is most often done, as I’ve done here, adding the chips first and then the eggs, but feel free to try both methods and decide which you like or which you prefer each time.
Like I said, I added the chips first, so the result is creamier rather than with texture…But sometimes I do it the other way around!
Finally add your beaten eggs. I’ve used 4, but you could well cut up to 3 if you also want just enough egg to bind but keep more texture. Whichever amount you use, I do strongly suggest that you scramble them over medium heat being careful to not overcook or your dish will be dry! (but some people like it that way…in fact, scrambled eggs in Spain are often served that way!:( I prefer it the french way…to get creamy not completely set scrambled eggs).
And serve!!!!Some chopped parsley (or coriander) for colour, a sprinkle of freshly milled pepper and some black olives to decorate (and for taste!)
See how creamy it is?
Just one last note, the amount of cod I’ve used I think it’s enough to flavour the dish but some people like almost the same amount of cod to potato. This may sound obvious, but adjust the amount of cod to your taste (or your pocket :-) clearly potatoes are cheaper!). Similarly increasing the amount of onion up to 200g is still nice, over that I think it’s too much, but experiment!