Here is a great Portuguese favourite. Although their real origin is the north, cod cakes became so popular that they were adopted as a true “national specialty.” Cod cakes are ideal fare for snacks (hot or cold) and are featured at every Portuguese function, from the most sophisticated to the humblest. If there is anything really ingrained in the Portuguese palate, loved by everyone, this is it. Snobs may be somewhat derogatory about cod cakes, afraid of admitting that they too love this “poor-man’s dish,” but do not believe them. They probably eat them all the same, when nobody is looking.
Cod cakes are sold at delicatessens, patisseries, roadside cafés, tavernas — everywhere in Portugal. If you can’t find or don’t like salted cod, they are also very nice made with fresh cod.—Edite Vieira
10 ounces thick salted cod
14 ounces floury (starchy) potatoes
1 small onion, very finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
3 large eggs
Vegetable or canola oil for frying
1. Rinse the cod well, under the tap, to wash away some of the surface salt, and place it in a roomy bowl, covering it with cold water. Change the water 4 to 5 times for a period of 12 hours (for very thin cuts) to 24 hours (for thicker cuts). Before cooking taste a few strands to make sure it’s not overly salty, although it should retain some saltiness, or it will be too bland.
2. Boil the potatoes (in their skins, for preference, so they do not absorb water); peel them and mash or sieve. Set aside.
3. Meantime, simmer the cod in enough boiling water to cover it, until tender (about 20 minutes). Drain, discard the skin and bones and flake it as much as you can with your fingers, then with a fork, to reduce it to threads. (The proper way of doing this is to place the flaked cod inside a clean cloth, fold it and squeeze and pound the contents of the cloth with your fists. In this way you will have mashed cod.)
4. Mix this mass with the mashed potatoes and add the eggs, one by one, and then the onion and parsley. Taste for salt but you may not need to add any, as the cod itself retains enough saltiness, in spite of being soaked and boiled. (Avoid having cod cakes that are too salty). The mixture should be quite stiff, enabling a spoon to stand up in it. If you find it excessively dry, add one or two tablespoons of milk. Allow this to cool completely before deep frying, as you would deep fry fish or chips.
5. With two tablespoons, shape the fishcakes like large eggs and place in the hot oil (370°F/190°C), turning them three or four times to get nicely browned all over. When cooked, lift them with a big fork or slotted spoon and place them on kitchen paper, to absorb excess fat. Go on molding and frying until you use up the mixture.
Recipe © 1999 Grub Street. All rights reserved.