Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá is a traditional dish from Porto, in Northwest Portugal. As I’ve written in an earlier post using bacalhau, the Portuguese were one of the first European cultures to fish for cod, off the coast of Newfoundland after Columbus discovered the New World. Salted cod has been an integral part of Portuguese culture, and it’s often said that you can cook a new dish using bacalhau every day of the year – it’s often cited that there are over 1,000 total recipes to be found.
Advances in fishing technology in the mid 20th century had collapsed the Northwest Atlantic cod market by the 1990s – cod takes a long time to mature, and overfishing had run rampant. Today, bacalhau is most often made using cod harvested from Arctic waters under more strict quotas.
Bacalhau is made by salting and drying the fish in the sun; while it was originally a method of preservation (salted cod keeps a long time even without refrigeration), its unique, strong flavor is unmistakable and delicious, and its popularity endures today. The only downside to eating bacalhau is that it requires a bit of foresight, since it needs to be soaked overnight to reconstitute the fish.
If you’re new to using bacalhau, you might be surprised to find that it’s available in many common grocery stores, often sold near the cured meats section. For example, my local Publix grocery store sells a few different varieties of bacalhau. I like to keep some in the fridge at all times; I’ll generally throw some in a bowl of water, then put it in the fridge to soak overnight, and either pan-fry it to enjoy with my breakfast, or making something fancy like today’s recipe.
This dish is unique in that you spend most of your time getting everything prepped before actually putting it together – baking the dish itself is a cinch.
Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá (Gluten-free, Paleo, Primal, Perfect Health Diet)
1 lb salted cod
3 medium potatoes (about 2 lbs), peeled
1 tbsp olive oil
1 Spanish onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
12-15 black olives
1 large handful fresh parsley, chopped
2 hardboiled eggs, cut into wedges, for serving
1 lemon, cut into wedges, for serving
1. Prep the salted cod. Rinse in cold water and place in a bowl; fill the bowl with water and place in the refrigerator. Soak the cod for at least 12 but up to 48 hours, switching out the water twice.
2. Remove the cod and place in a stockpot; cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to med/low and simmer for 10 minutes, then drain and set aside to cool, about 20 minutes. At the same time, place the potatoes in a separate pot and cover with water; bring to a boil, reduce heat to med/low and simmer until just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool, about 20 minutes.
3. As the cod and potatoes cook and cool, caramelize the onion. Warm the oil in a skillet over med/low heat, then add the onion and a pinch of salt. Sauté the onion until caramelized, reducing heat as needed to prevent burning, about 40 minutes, stirring every few minutes. If you time it right, you can prep all three items – cod, potatoes, and onions – at the same time.
4. Once the cod and potatoes have cooled, shred the cod with a fork and slice the potatoes into 1/4″ slices. Gently toss the potatoes with the melted butter, salt and pepper.
5. Preheat the oven to 350F. Add half of the potatoes to a casserole or gratin dish, then layer half of the fish, black olives, parsley, and caramelized onions on top. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Bake until golden and slightly crisped, about 30 minutes, then serve with egg and lemon wedges.