Finally! A Meal!

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.

Doesn't look like much, but it did taste good! Bacalhau com natas

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!

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About Cynthia

Free lance wine writer based in Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal
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5 Responses to Finally! A Meal!

  1. That looks really good! I’m glad it turned out well after all that work. Funny about the salt. :-)

  2. Jean says:

    I should do a blog post one day how the (southern)Chinese cuisine does include use of salted dried fish as a condiment to flavour …pork and other dishes.

    One only needs a 1-inch square to steam a glass dish of sliced pork, done Chinese style to feed 8 people.

    Unlike you, I’m not sure if I want to buy a chunk just for a blog post. I mean even after soaking to dilute the saltiness, it’s still salty. Thanks for this post…and for all readers here, just think of it flavouring a dish like the use of anchovies or olives.

    • Cynthia says:

      Hi Jean. Actually, the bacalhau was a Christmas gift which I could not allow to go to waste, it was part of a traditional Christmas gift box of food items and wine. I have wanted to try making bacalhau for some time, it can be very good, I just never got to it before I received this gift.

      From the sounds of it, the salted dried fish used in Oriental cuisine is different – as you say, it is used more as a condiment to flavour a dish which primarily features something else, whereas with bacalhau, it IS the dish. The flavour is nothing like as strong as an anchovy or the nam pla sauces I have tasted, and with the soaking in water for a few days, you can remove pretty nearly all the salt, as certainly happened with the small pieces I used for the dish yesterday.

  3. Micky says:

    Books and people will tell you that all bacalhau is poached, but… in reality, we don’t always do that! Think Bacalhau com Broa (corn bread) or Dourado (fries and eggs), those seldom get poached before being used. Unless they’re too salty, of course.

    But your bacalhau com natas looked delicious, and I don’t even like that particular dish. I’m glad your wrestle with the fish came to a happy ending!

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