Bacalhau à Brás (Portuguese Salted Cod with Potatoes, Onions, and Egg)

Bacalhau, salted cod, is an ingredient that is used a lot in Portuguese cooking. It is so popular in Portugal that the supermarket had a special department with just bacalhau. Bacalhau is not produced in Portugal itself, but imported from places like Norway and Iceland. It was ‘invented’ in the time that we did not yet have refrigerators to store fish. Good quality bacalhau is delicious (bad quality smells too fishy) and can be eaten without cooking after it has been soaked in cold water. In this way you can compare it to the fish-version of prosciutto (salted leg of pork).

It is available in different qualities and sizes, where the largest size (especial, of 3 kilos or more) requires 72 hours of soaking before it is ready to use.

Here it was sold as a whole fish, that was then cut up into manageable pieces.

The bacalhau can be kept at room temperature, so I took a whole fish back home in my suitcase.

Bacalhau à Brás is one of the most popular Portuguese dishes with bacalhau. We had it several times during our trip, including as part of the tasting menu at Alma. The dish was created by the restaurant Brás in the Lisbon quarter of Bairro Alto. It consists of bacalhau mixed with fried potatoes in matchsticks, onion, and beaten egg. It is tasty comfort food and very filling.

Ingredients

For 4 servings as a full meal

500 grams (1.1 lbs) soaked and cleaned bacalhau, from approximately 500 grams of salted bacalhau (it gains weight from the soaking and then weight is lost from removing skin and bones)

500 grams (1.1 lbs) waxy potatoes

250 grams (.55 lbs) onions

6 eggs

olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

black olives, for garnish

parsley, for garnish

Instructions

Soak the bacalhau in cold water, keeping it refrigerated, and refreshing the water three times per day. The bacalhau I took home was “especial” and so it took 72 hours or 9 times of changing the water.

Shred the bacalhau with your fingers, discarding the skin and bones. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Chop the potatoes into matchsticks.

Soak the potato sticks in cold water to remove the excess starch, then dry them with a clean tea towel.

Fry the potato sticks in a generous amount of olive oil over medium heat…

…until cooked through. The potatoes should not become crispy.

Take the potato from the pan and allow to drain to remove any excess oil. Discard all but 4 tablespoons of the olive oil in the frying pan.

Slice the onion.

Cook the onion over medium heat in the remaining olive oil, until soft. Do not allow the onions to become crispy or brown, but they should be soft.

When the onions are done, add the potatoes back to the pan.

Add the shredded bacalhau as well. Stir over low heat until everything has been mixed very well and heated through.

Beat the eggs. Turn off the heat and add the beaten eggs.

This is just like making carbonara: the eggs should be cooked by the heat of the potatoes, onion, and bacalhau. The egg should not stay too runny, but you don’t want scrambled eggs or a frittata either.

Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Serve, garnished with black olives and parsley. This is one of the few Portuguese dishes where parsley is used rather than cilantro, which would overpower the flavor of the bacalhau.

Wine pairing

At home we enjoyed this with an oaked Encruzado from Dão, but at Alma it was also great with a light-bodied red wine.

Flashback

Pasta shells with baby octopus.

 

7 thoughts on “Bacalhau à Brás (Portuguese Salted Cod with Potatoes, Onions, and Egg)

  1. Yes – this is roughly the way my poor, poor Portuguese housekeeper tried to make us like the fish ! She did not cook for us, lived at the other end of Sydney-town and would hold the casserole in her lap all the long bus ride ! well, I have something to prove to myself . . . shall try get some good quality bacalhau and try again with a now more mature palate . . . ! Am laughing – just as well this was not found in your suitcase in Sydney ! Not only would it have been confiscated and thrown into a bin but you would have ended up with a hefty fine to boot !!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Direi che il connubio di baccalà e latte che si fa a Piacenza è altrettanto strano 🙂 Dovrei rifarlo con il baccalà portato dallo Portogallo, perché con il baccalà reperibile qui non mi è veramente piaciuto.

      Liked by 1 person

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