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.