Fiel amigo is what salt cod is lovingly called in Portugal- “loyal friend”. Salt cod (bacalhau) is probably the most important staple in Portuguese cuisine. With much of Portugal bordering the Atlantic Ocean and a rich seafaring history, fresh seafood has always played an important role in Portuguese life. So, you might ask, how is it that this small country became the largest consumer of preserved salt cod in the word?
The answer lies in another time and place. The Vikings, especially the Norwegians, had been preserving cod with salt for more than 500 years. The Portuguese learned that the abundant fish off their shores – Sardines, Mackerel, etc… were too oily to stay preserved for any length of time. It was during the age of exploration in the 16th century that the Portuguese first came upon Newfoundland and its cod-rich seas. They named the region Terra dos Bacalhaus (Land of Codfish). With an abundance of cod and the sunshine and salt that is necessary to dry them, the explorers were able to return home with massive amounts of cod that they used to trade for the many new and exciting spices that redefined Portuguese cuisine.
To the Portuguese-influenced communities around the globe, the soft-mild-chewiness of salt cod emotes fond childhood memories. Fried codfish fritters are a fan favorite everywhere.
Bolinhos de Bacalhau – Codfish Fritters
- Potato hand masher
- Medium saucepan
- Food processor
- Bowl and colander
- Large heavy-bottomed skillet, deep fryer, or wok
- 1 lb Salt cod
- 1¼ lb Potatoes
- 1 small Onion, roughly chopped
- 1 bunch Flat-leaf parsley, stalks removed
- 2 large Eggs, lightly beaten
- 2-3 cups Deep frying oil (canola or peanut), or 2 cups if pan frying
- 2 Lemons cut into wedges
- In a saucepan, soak the salt cod in water for at least 24 hours. Change water a few times.
- Boil potatoes with skins on for 30-40 minutes. Remove from pot, let them cool, then peel. Mash potatoes with a masher or grater. (Food processor makes them too "whipped").
- Drain and rinse cod. Return to saucepan of boiling water. Lower heat to medium and cook 8 minutes. Drain and let cool a little. Remove skin and any bones. In a food processor, finely chop onion and parsley and transfer to a large bowl. Put cod in the food processor and pulse to shred fish into fine pieces. Add to same bowl as onions and parsley.
- Add potatoes and eggs to bowl with cod, onion, parsley, and combine everything. Using 2 tablespoons or wet hands, shape bolinhos into little torpedoes or balls. There should be around 40 when done.
- Heat oil in pot (or deep fryer) to 375°F (190°C). Fry in uncrowded batches, turning, until golden brown, about 4 minutes total. Drain on paper towels and serve with lemon wedges and a yogurt dipping sauce.
- Don’t overcrowd the belinhos when frying.
- Return frying oil to temperature before cooking more bolinhos or they will become soggy.