After fire destroyed the fortunes of a wealthy 19th century family of cod traders in Porto, the son Jose Luis de Sa had to look for work. He brought his knowledge of salt cod, Bacalhau, and culinary expertise to the popular Restaurante Lisbonense in the second largest city in Portugal, Porto. His reconstructed version of pasteis de bacalhau (codfish cakes) quickly helped make the restaurant one of the most popular eating establishments of the day.
He eventually sold the recipe named after his family, Bacalhau `a Gomes de Sa’, for a hefty sum. Upon leaving, he left the owner a note that translates to “Joao, if you change anything, you won’t succeed”. This is that recipe…unchanged!
Salt Codfish with Onion and Potato – Bacalhau `a Gomes de Sa’
- Large skillet
- large saucepan
- Casserole dish
- 4 tbsp Olive oil
- 2 large Yellow onions
- 2 Bay leaves
- 4 cloves Garlic, minced
- Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
- 2 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced ⅙-inch thin
- 1½ lb Precooked salt cod (see below)
- 1 quart Whole milk
- 1 cup Pitted black Kalamata olive, sliced
- 6 large Hard boiled eggs
- 2 tbsp Flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- Reconstitute – Rinse salt cod and soak in a bowl of water covering the fish by 2 inches. Refrigerate for between 12 and up-to 48 hours, changing water a few times.
- Pre Cook – Bring the milk in a sauce to a boil. Turn heat to low, add in cod, and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Drain in a colander and cool. Remove any bones and skin. Break up cod to small chunks or large shreds.
Make Bacalhau a Gomes de Sa'
- Hard boil eggs by putting eggs in in a saucepan with cold water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cook for 7 minutes more and then remove to a bowl with ice water to stop cooking. Peel. Take 4 eggs and slice each into 5 disks. Quarter lengthwise the other 2 eggs for garnish.
- In a large skillet, heat 4 tbsp olive over medium-high heat. Add sliced onions and bay leaves, cover, and cook stirring occasionally for 25 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Move off heat to cool a little.
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Coat the bottom of a casserole dish with 2-3 tbsp olive oil. Dust bottom with salt and pepper.
- Line casserole with overlapping potato slices to begin the first layer. Scatter some of the cooked onions and olives over the potatoes. Then scatter some of the cod chunks next. Top with 1 sliced hard boiled egg. Continue layering in the same order, adding olive oil and salt and pepper over each potato layer before continuing. Press down to keep layers even and flat. End with a layer of potatoes, sprinkled with olive oil, salt and pepper.
- Cover casserole with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove cover and cook another 10 minutes to lightly brown top.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool a bit. Arrange quartered eggs, any remaining olives, and sprinkle parsley over. Serve.
- When buying salt cod, look for thick pieces of high-quality fish. Norwegian salt cod, if you find it, is also excellent.
- Be sure salt cod is thoroughly desalinated before using.