Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Bacalhau à Brás

Angola used to be a portuguese colony until late 19th century. The Portuguese fingerprints are very much evident to this day. From the language, food produce, cuisines and even the gestures one gives to another driver that simply means FO, the very same gesture Italians perused.

My Tio (my uncle in law, to be precise) was here in 1970s for 3 years to help restore peace in this war torn country. It's prolly a good thing I didn't understand much of portuguese, because H seems to always run away whenever this tio tries to reminisce his Angolan days :)

Anyway, I want to introduce an Angolan dish that's ubiquitously eaten in all parts of Angola and Portugal and perhaps in Brazil too. This is the one dish you'll be seeing during the holiday season, much like turkey around Thanksgiving Thursday. 

Bacalhau is actually a Portuguese word for Cod fish, but in culinary world, it is referring to salted, dried cod fish. Never the fresh ones. If you're looking for a fresh cod fish, it's called bacalhau fresco. This salted, dried fish (that's stinky to newbies) is not unique to Portugal only, but you can easily find it in Italy, Spain, even Norwegia, though perhaps not as common. It is said there are 365 ways of cooking Bacalhau  in Portugal, one for every single day of the year. 

Today, I'm introducing the most common, basic Bacalhau dish, called Bacalhau à Brás. 

The fish is sold by the gram, and doesn't come cheap. At times, much more expensive than the fresh ones. To use it, you have to soak it at least 48 hrs, while I always soak it for 72 hrs. The water will turn cloudy, not to mention the fish has a strong (unpleasant) smell, so make sure to change the water every 8 hours. I suppose if you soak it for fewer hours, you'll have a saltier fish taste. But once the meat is soft & crumble, I figured you can use it. 

Bacalhau à Brás (serve 2)

* 200 gr desalted & crumbled bacalhau
* 6 baby potatoes, cut into 8 wedges
* 1 medium onion, diced
* 1 tsp garlic confit
* 2 eggs, beaten mixed with a dash of cream + milk
* Black olives, pitted & sliced. Use as many or as little as you want. Start with very 4 Olives. 
* 1.5 tbsp chopped parsley
* 1.5 tbsp lemon juice
* S+P

How to:
* In a pot, half boiled the potatoes. Before finishing them in a pan till brown and set aside. I used duck fat to brown my potato. Mmmm :)

* Once the potato is ready, in a heavy bottom pan, brown the onion with OO. Once it turns translucent, add in the garlic, toss. Add in the bacalhau and toss some more. Simmer for few minutes over low heat. 

* Add in the potatoes, toss. Add in the eggs mixture & pepper. Carefully stir to ensure the egg turns into soft curd & a tad creamy but cooked. 

* Turn off the fire. Add in the olives, squeeze some lemon juice & some chopped parsley, taste. Add some salt if needed. 

I have to admit bacalhau is not something that I love on first bite. In fact, I didn't like the version they did here in Angola (much too salty for my liking). It wasn't until I tried the various versions in Portugal that I learn to appreciate and love the dish. 

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