Yesterday we hosted a little get-together with some cousins. We hadn’t seen them in ages and it was so nice to catch up.
The running joke (and I’m sure this applies to many of you out there) is that we usually see each other for baptisms, weddings, and sadly, funerals. But we decided that’s not good enough; it was time to schedule something outside of those events.
These cousins are Portuguese (born in the Azores but came to Canada as young children) and they have experienced most of the same traditions I grew up with in the Azores. So I thought it would be appropriate to dig into my mom’s book of traditions (her hand-written notebook of her traditional recipes). In there I found “Bacalhau de Natas”. This “Cod in Cream Sauce” is one of the most popular and recognized Portuguese meals on earth. Although there are many different ways of preparing this meal, my mom’s version looked pretty easy to follow. There are many steps to making this dish, but none of them are difficult. I had never made this dish so I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. I was pleasantly surprised at the outcome. Plus our guests seemed to really like the flavours. In addition to the cod, I also prepared a few other Azores style favourites that I thought they might appreciate. I made Portuguese Collard Greens and Beef Soup (sopa de couve), Azores Cornbread (Pão de Milho do Pico) and Azores-Style Fresh Cheese (Queijo Fresco).
We had a wonderful evening catching up with our cousins and they seemed to really enjoy a little tour we gave them of our food blogging steps. So, invite some family or friends over next weekend, follow one of our recipes and … eat well, friends!
- 3.8 lbs salted dry cod
- 6 large russet potatoes (or another good frying potato), washed and peeled.
- 6 cups vegetable oil.
- 3 tbs of olive oil
- 2 onions finely diced
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 2 bay leaves
- 4¼ cup of milk (I use 2%. Skim might be too thin)
- 4 tbs of flour
- 1½ tsp salt
- 1 cup whipping (heavy) cream
- Soak the salted cod in cold water for 24 hours (I do this in a clean sink). This removes a lot of the salt.
- Rinse the cod with cold water under the tap.
- Cut the cod into 3 to 4 inch pieces.
- In a large pot, cover the cod in water (about 3 inches above the cod)
- Turn on the stove to medium high and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to medium and let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until fish is fully cooked. The fish should flake off if you pinch an end.
- Pour the cod onto a colander to remove the water and set aside to cool.
- Cut potatoes into uniform length and thickness "sticks".
- Place them on a layer of paper towels and dry them using additional paper towels. This will prevent splatters when you place the potatoes in the hot oil.
- In a large pot, heat the vegetable oil to 375 ºF. The temperature should stay consistent for optimal cooking conditions. Use a candy thermometer to ensure you're at the right temperature.
- Line a large plate with two layers of paper towels.
- Using a large slotted spoon, place about a quarter of the cut/dry fries in the oil carefully to avoid spatters.
- Let them fry until they start taking on a slightly golden colour.
- Using a large slotted spoon, pick up some of the fries, lift, let drain and transfer onto the paper towel-lined plate.
- Keep transferring the fries onto the paper towel, spread out evenly until no fries are left in the pot.
- Add more raw fries to the pot and repeat the last 4 steps until all the fries are cooked.
- Let the fries cool on paper towels.
- In a large deep pot, heat the olive oil on medium high.
- Add the onions and bay leaves and sauté until the onions are translucent (about 5 minutes).
- Add the garlic, stir and let cook for another 3 minutes (do not let the garlic burn).
- Remove the bay leaves.
- Pinch apart pieces of fish into large bite-sized flakes and place the fish in the pot with onion mixture.
- Place the cooled fries over the fish.
- In another large pot, add the milk, salt and flour.
- Set the stove to medium high.
- Once the milk starts to get warm, start whisking.
- Keep whisking until the milk thickens a bit (look for a liquidy cake batter consistency). About 15 minutes or a little more.
- Add the cream and continue to whisk until the same previous consistency is achieved About 4 minutes).
- Pour this creamy sauce in the pot, over the fish and fries.
- Using a large heavy spoon, mix the fish, potatoes and creamy sauce until everything is evenly mixed and coated.
- Pour the mixture into a large pyrex or other oven proof bakeware.
- Preheat the oven to 425 ºF
- Once the oven has reached 425 ºF, place the bakeware in the oven on the middle rack.
- Heat for about 15 minutes or until the top has a reached a light golden colour.
- Remove from the oven and and serve hot.
This dish is also fantastic served cold.
This dish is perfect for making the day before you have guests. If this is the case, follow all the directions accept for the last oven step. Once you've added the mixture to the baking cookware, let cool and refrigerate. About half hour before your guests arrive, heat the oven to 300ºF. Place the dish in the oven for 20 minutes. Then raise the oven heat to 425 ºF and let it continue cooking for another 10 minutes or until the top reaches a nice light golden colour.
The recipe shows 1 h 50 minutes. The time will be substantially reduced if you can fry the fries while boiling the fish.