Good news: I saw the butcher today and he will cut up the main hunk of bacalhau for me tomorrow, hallelujah!
More good news: Finally had my first taste of the bacalhau, for a late lunch this afternoon. The little side pieces I had managed to trim off on the first day from the still dried fish were small enough for me to poach and prepare today for lunch.
From what I have been told and read, all bacalhau is first poached, then the skin and bones removed, and then the meat is either consumed as is, or used as a basis for more elaborate dishes. I went for more elaborate – I adore bacalhau com natas, which means with cream. Every recipe I have is designed to feed 10 people, and I am not exaggerating. It actually makes some sense – I have to say wrestling with this monster to make just one meal for just one person is pretty silly. But… all I needed was to feed myself this afternoon, so I improvised. Purists will probably howl, but… here’s what I did.
Poached the scrappy bits of soaked, salt-free bacalhau in a court bouillion (water, a bit of white wine, bay leaf, onion, cracked pepper), set aside and when cool enough to handle cleaned off the skin and a few stray bones. Most recipes will tell you to strain off the poaching liquid (which is usually just water, milk or a bit of both) and use it to make a basic white sauce which will get a little cream added to it at the end – this way you have lots of sauce for that casserole to feed ten hungry people without the expense of too much cream. I didn’t bother with making the white sauce.
Sautéed sliced onions in olive oil, set aside. Sautéed cubed potato in olive oil. Mixed up the potato, onion and the bacalhau torn into small pieces, added some pepper and grated nutmeg and piled all that into a small single-serving casserole dish, covered with cream (I have no cholesterol – yet!) and baked for about 45 minutes.
I am pleased to report, it was pretty good, only… it needed a little salt!