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Cod Casserole with Hearts-of-Palm (Bacalhau Fresco com Palmito ao Molho Branco)

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In Brazil, the dishes that are traditionally served on Good Friday are the ones with some kind of fish, especially salt cod (bacalhau). I love salt cod!! My sister is an expert and she makes some amazing salt cod recipes for our family every year!! Salt cod is delicious, but a bit tricky to be prepared… It must be desalted in water overnight, and the water must be changed several times (people say at least 7 times). I have to confess that as much as I love salt cod, these days I prefer to substitute fresh cod in some of those traditional Brazilian recipes. 


This Cod Casserole with Hearts-of-Palm is a creamy and delicious recipe that I adapted with the use of fresh cod. This dish is easy to make and WAY faster to prepare, since I used fresh cod. Hearts-of-palm are a bit acidic and the white sauce balances that out, giving this dish a smooth and velvety texture. To give a bit of a fresh touch, I used scallions and cilantro to finish the white sauce, but Italian parsley would also taste incredible in this recipe. I hope you enjoy sharing this recipe with your family!


Serves 4


Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 ½ cups milk
  • Sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ cup Media Crema (See Cook’s Note)
  • ½ cup olive oil, divided
  • ½ medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 can hearts-of-palm (8 ounces), drained and finely sliced
  • ¼ cup scallions, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 ½ pounds fresh cod, cut into fillets (approximately 2-inches thick and 3 to 4-inches long)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup Panko bread crumbs


Directions:

In a medium sauce pan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until completely melted. Slowly add flour, whisking vigorously to prevent it from forming lumps. Cook, constantly whisking, for 3 to 4 minutes. Slowly add milk and whisk until sauce thickens, 2 minutes. Remove from heat, and season with salt and nutmeg. Fold in Media Crema and cover to keep warm. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 40 seconds. Stir in hearts-of-palm and cook an additional minute. Remove from heat and stir in scallions and cilantro. Set aside.

Pre-heat oven broiler.

In a working surface, season cod with salt and pepper on both sides. In a large frying pan, add remaining olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Fry cod fillets in batches, separating them into two or three batches of similar thickness. Fry 2 ½ to 4 minutes in one side, then turn and fry another 2 ½ to 4 minutes on the other side, until golden brown (thicker batch will, evidently, take longer to cook then the thinner batch). Remove from pan and place over an oven-proof deep-dish, covering to keep warm.

Fold in vegetables into the white sauce. Cover cod fillets with sauce and top with Panko bread crumbs. Broil 2 to 3 minutes, 10-inces away from flame, until top is golden brown. Remove from oven. Garnish top with finely chopped scallions and serve immediately with white or jasmine rice.

Cook’s Note:

Media Crema is South American table cream and it usually be found in the baking aisle or the Latin section of major grocery stores. If Media Crema is unavailable, replace by ½ cup Mascarpone.

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