Another traditional dish
Our Portuguese recipes are our blog’s most visited posts, and today we’re featuring another incredibly popular Portuguese dish.
This Portuguese cod, caramelized onion and potato casserole, also known as bacalhau à Gomes de Sá is served all over Portugal, and in Portuguese communities around the world.
Cod is the superstar fish of Portuguese cuisine. It’s said that there are 1001 ways to prepare cod.
Who is this Gomes de Sá?
Gomes de Sá was the son of a wealthy Portuguese merchant in the 19th century. After the family lost its fortune, Gomes moved to the Portuguese city of Porto and got a job in a restaurant. He developed this namesake recipe while working at that restaurant.
Cod… not our favourite when we were little 😃
Liz and I both hated cod growing up. Salted cod was an inexpensive fish (still is fairly inexpensive), so it was a fish our parents could afford, and they used it in a variety of dishes.
Liz and I have similar memories of sitting at the dinner table, chewing on a bite of cod for so long that it eventually turn into ball of fish that was impossible to swallow. At that point, and usually through tears, we’d beg to spit it out. It’s funny that we share that experience…and funny that we’d both get in trouble for struggling to eat the same food. It drove our parents crazy.
Salted cod is still not Liz’s favourite food, but she somewhat enjoys it now; preferring fresh cod to the dried variety. It’s a completely different story for me, however. After living on an island, in a fishing town, for 8 years, I learned to love fish. And cod, in any manner, is no exception.
Cod on the menu for Christmas
Christmas Eve is often a big celebration in Portuguese homes. I have fond memories of huge spreads of delicious food. My mom would always make a variety of cakes and cookies, some sort of beef roast, and of course, always a cod dish.
There are a few popular ways of preparing cod for this celebration. These include today’s recipe, as well as bacalhau de natas, bacalhau da consoada, bacalhau à brás, among others.
So much fish in Portuguese waters… but not cod
Yes it’s true. One of the most popular fish in Portugal is not native to Portugal at all. Salted cod is typically imported from Newfoundland or Norway.
Portuguese explorers and fisherman were fearless travelling the seas and had no problem going far. During these travels in the 16th century they brought back cod from Newfoundland and it became a staple of Portuguese cuisine.
Give it another try
I’m so glad I didn’t let my childhood experience with cod, dictate my future with it. I would be missing something special.
So if there’s a food you claim to have hated in your youth, give it a try again as an adult, and see how you feel about it now. You may be pleasantly surprised. Maybe it’ll even become a new favourite. Whatever you do, always eat well, friends.
Portuguese cod, caramelized onion and potato casserole (Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá)
- 2.5 lbs or 1.13 kg salted cod
- 3 lbs white potatoes about 6 potatoes
- 1 tbsp kosher salt for boiling the potatoes
- 3 cups fatty milk we used homogenized or 3.25%
- 3/4 cups extra virgin olive oil
- 4 medium cooking onions sliced in thin half wheels
- 5 cloves garlic sliced thin
- 2 tsp kosher salt for cooking the onions
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 large eggs
- 15 black olives + extra for serving with the finished dish
- 1/2 cup flat leaf or Italian parsley chopped
- Extra olive oil for the table in case anyone wants a little extra over their serving
- Place the cod in a large bowl and cover with water.
- Refrigerate for at least 24 hours to remove the salt.
- Place the cod in a large pot, bring to a boil and reduce the heat. Simmer for about 10 minutes or until the fish flakes.
- Drain and set aside to cool.
- Place the potatoes (whole) in another large pot.
- Add 1 tbsp salt.
- Bring to a boil and reduce the heat. Simmer for about 30 minutes or until you can easily poke through a potato with a fork. Timing will depend on the size of the potatoes.
- Set the potatoes aside to cool.
- Once the potatoes are cool enough to be handled with your hands, peel them and cut them into wheels.
- Remove the skin and debone the cooled cod.
- Flake the cod (large pieces) into a large bowl.
- Heat the milk in a pot just until before the boiling point and remove from the heat.
- Pour the milk over the cod pieces, cover (with a lid or place a plate over the bowl) and let sit for 1 to 2 hours.
- In a large deep pan, heat the oil on medium.
- Add the sliced onions and garlic.
- Add the salt, pepper and bay leaves.
- Mix well to coat everything in the olive oil.
- Cook on medium for about 20 minutes or until the onions are caramelized. Cook slow and do not brown the onions. If the pan seems a bit hot, reduce the temperate.
- Remove the bay leaves and set aside.
- While the onions are cooking, hard bail 4 eggs, and set aside to cool.
- Once the eggs are cool, peel them and carefully cut them into circles. Don’t worry if some of the slices break a little.
- Preheat the oven to 425ºF.
- Drain out the milk from the fish. Discard the milk.
- In a large clay or other deep baking dish, assemble the ingredients.
- Spread about 1/3 of the onions evenly on the bottom of the baking dish.
- Spread about half of the potato wheels over the onions.
- Spread 1/2 the fish flakes over the potatoes.
- Sprinkle half the chopped parsley over the fish.
- Spread another 1/3 of the onions evenly over the fish.
- Spread the remaining potato wheels over the onions.
- Spread the remaining fish flakes over the potatoes.
- Spread the remaining onions evenly over the fish.
- Place the dish in the oven on the middle rack and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the onions and fish edges start to brown.
- Remove the baking dish from the oven.
- Place the eggs, olives and remaining parsley evenly over the top and serve hot.
Cheryl H says
I am looking forward to trying this recipe. The instructions say to cool the potatoes, but there is no further instruction until assembly, when it says to add half-wheels of potatoes. Are we to peel and then slice into rounds? Also, we are instructed to “bail” the eggs. 🙂
Nelson Cardoso says
Hi Cheryl, thanks so much for catching this! We appreciate it and will publish the correction shortly. Yes, once the potatoes can be handled with your hands, peel them and cut them in wheels. Let us know if you try it. Thanks again.