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Salt Cod with Potatoes and Olives (Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá)

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Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá is a very traditional dish from Portugal that Brazil decided to make its own – like all the other salt cod recipes ever invented in Portugal. 

The method of salting fish or meat, was widely used during the time when Brazil became Portugal’s colony. Therefore, the different recipes and ways to prepare the salt cod were fully embraced by the Brazilians. Wonder why? It’s very tasty and much easier to make than most people would think. 

This recipe is called Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá, but if you can’t pronounce that, simply call it Salt Cod with Potatoes and Olives. It is a simple dish that uses only a handful of ingredients. Just watch for timing: it can be prepared in advance, but the salt cod must be soaked for at least 24 hours before cooked. Using salt cod just takes a bit of planning. 

Another important thing: use high quality olive oil and olives. I feel like that, besides the salt cod, the stars in this dish are the olive oil and the olives. Good quality, pungent, rich varieties of olives will work best here. The slightly caramelized onions bring a touch of sweetness, and the potatoes will balance everything out and add sustenance to the dish. The eggs make for a pretty topping – and a delicious one – do not skip it!

A big prove that Brazilians have fully embraced salt cod dishes is that these recipes became an Easter tradition down there! On Easter Sunday, a large casserole or skillet is one of the most popular main courses served at the occasion. It has become that kind of special food that everyone looks forward to.

Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá is simple to prepare and full of flavor. I promise that salt cod is really easy to handle! Give it try and maybe you will also want to incorporate this new dish into your traditional repertoire - at Easter or at any time of the year!

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Salt Cod with Potatoes and Olives (Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá)

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound salt cod chunks, or fillets
  • 4 to 5 medium potatoes (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • Salt and black pepper
  • ¾ cup Kalamata, Green, or Spanish Olives, halved
  • 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped,
  • 2 to 3 eggs, cooked, peeled and sliced
  • Lemon wedges, for serving (optional)

Directions:

Start at least 24 hours ahead (or up to 48 hours) by preparing the salt cod. Place the salt cod in a sealable container and cover with 6 cups of cold water. Transfer to fridge. Soak the cod for up to 48 hours, switching the water at least three times (see Cook’s Note).

The next day, drain the cod and transfer to a medium pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and drain. Once cool enough to touch, finely shred cod by hand (remove any visible fat and any bones). The pieces must be tiny (see picture below). Set aside.

Place potatoes in a large pot of water and cook, over medium heat, until fork tender; about 20 to 30 minutes. Drain and let it cool to touch. Remove the skin and cut into ½ inch slices. Set aside.

Place ¼ cup of olive oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until they turn golden and start to caramelize; about 10 minutes. Turn heat down to low. Gently fold in the cod, remaining olive oil, and potatoes (break apart some of the larger slices of potato, if needed).

Adjust salt and season with black pepper. Remove from heat.

Gently fold the olives (save a few for garnishing) and 1 tablespoon of parsley. Top with the egg slices. Garnish with remaining olives and parsley. Serve immediately with lemon wedges on the side (optional).

Cook’s Notes:

I switched the water three times, and it was perfect! The cod was left with just enough of a slightly salted flavor. Once I folded the potatoes and onions, I sampled the dish and realized that a bit more salt was needed. Just a bit. I encourage you to do same, especially because the levels of salt in the cod from different brands can vary. So, adjust the salt if necessary and ALWAYS change the soaking water at least three times.

You can find salt cod at Whole Foods, online, or at Portuguese-Brazilian grocery stores.

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This time, I purchased my salt cod at Whole Foods. I was pleased with the quality. I found just a couple of bones, and there wasn't a ton of skin left - which wasn't too hard to remove.

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When removed from the package the salt cod does not look very appealing...

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Than, it goes to the container filled with water - which should be changed at least three times in a 24-hour period. 

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After cooked, the salt cod must be hand shred into tiny pieces. You can discard any skin or bones during the process. That's probably the most time consuming part... Maybe 20 minutes or so. 

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When ready, the onions will be slightly caramelized. They will be of a golden color. 

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What?! There is a hand in my picture!!!!

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My favorite food stylist (Sebastian) showed up to "give me a hand". He was drinking an yakult and loving life ;)

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