This classic bacalhau à Gomes de Sá, or Portuguese salt cod-potato-onion casserole, is authentic in all ways but one: Instead of peeling, boiling, and cutting the potatoes, they’re very thinly sliced, layered in the dish, and cooked in the oven.
I grew up being served bacalhau à Gômes de Sá. Eating it was something entirely different. I refused to eat anything Portuguese when I was a kid. (Or at least I tried.) But over the years, I watched as my father consumed mountains of this dish, one of his absolute favorites. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I understood the pleasures of this homey and classic casserole.
Traditionally, the potatoes in the dish are peeled, boiled, cooled, and sliced 1/4 inch thick. I found in time that I could save nearly an hour’s worth of prep if I simply sliced the potatoes even more thinly and allowed them to cook in the oven.–David Leite
How to Buy, Reconstitute, and Cook Salt Cod
To purchase salt cod, or bacalhau, you want to seek out cod that’s preferably from Norway, which you can find in Portuguese, Italian, Greek, Spanish, or Latin markets. Buy the thickest, firmest pieces possible; they’ll make for a more substantial meal and a prettier presentation.
To reconstitute salt cod, rinse it well under running water to remove any surface salt. Place the pieces in a large bowl and cover with cold water by 2 inches. Stretch some plastic wrap over the top and refrigerate it, changing the water several times, until the fish is sufficiently desalted for you. Take a nibble. If it’s too salty, change the water again and let it sit for a few more hours. The process can take anywhere from 12 to 48 hours, depending on the type and size of the fillet. Above all, bear in mind: You can always add salt back to the finished casserole, but you can’t remove it once it’s in there.
To cook salt cod, bring a saucepan filled with enough water–or, if you prefer, milk–to submerge the cod to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, add the soaked cod, and simmer gently until it flakes easily when poked with a fork, 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets. Drain in a colander and let cool. Remove any bits of skin, bones, and spongy ends and then continue with the recipe. Photo © 2012 The Travelista.
Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá
- Quick Glance
- 1 H
- 2 H, 10 M
- Serves 4 to 6
- Olive oil
- 2 large Spanish onions, cut in half and then sliced into half moons
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 3/4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced 1/16-to-1/8-inch (1 to 3 mm) thick
- 1 1/2 pounds salt cod, soaked and cooked (above)
- 2/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives in oil, sliced, plus more for garnish
- 6 large hard boiled eggs, 4 eggs cut crosswise into 5 or 6 slices each; the remaining 2 eggs cut lengthwise into quarters
- 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and crank the heat to 350°F (176°C).
- 2. Drizzle a good glug of the oil (maybe 3 to 4 tablespoons) in a large skillet and set over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the onion slices and bay leaves. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden and soft, 20 to 25 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Slide off the heat and let cool slightly.
- 3. Meanwhile, liberally coat a 2-quart casserole dish with olive oil. Sprinkle the bottom with salt and pepper.
- 4. Line the bottom with some of the potato slices, overlapping them in concentric circles, creating a flower pattern.
- 5. Scatter some of the cooked onions and olives over the potatoes.
- 6. Place some of the chunks of cooked salt cod on top of the olives and potatoes.
- 7. Top with one sliced hard-boiled egg.
- 8. Cover with a layer of potatoes and top with a good glug of olive oil and a generous amount of salt and pepper.
- 9. Continue layering the onions and olives; salt cod; sliced egg; and potatoes, salt, and pepper–ending with potatoes. Occasionally press down on the casserole to make sure the layers are even and flat.
- 10. Cover the pan with foil and slide it into the oven. Cook until the potatoes are tender when pricked with a fork or skewer, 30 to 60 minutes, depending how many layers you have. Uncover the casserole and continue cooking until the top is lightly browned, 10 minutes more.
- 11. Remove the pan from the oven and let the casserole cool slightly. Strew the remaining olives, the parsley, and top with the egg quarters. Proudly carry the pot to the table and wish everyone bom apetite!
Recipe Testers Reviews
I love. Love. Love bacalhau. It is one of those food items that brings me both to my childhood and my adult life. I grew up in a place where having bacalhau meant both happiness and sorrow. We ate bacalhau to feed a big crowd at a party and we ate it while viewing the dead.
My husband is Portuguese and from the moment I set foot in his country I fell in love with the food, more so with the 1001 ways to make bacalhau. I have made this recipe many times before, but this version, as a casserole, I have never seen or tried. I had to make it. It was a fun and long process and I enjoyed every minute of it.
I started by reconstituting the codfish. I do mine for 36 hours as I like it a bit salty and not completely bland. This is something I have been doing over the years and I learned that is the right amount of time, at least for me.
Once the salted cod is ready it takes about 50 minutes to cook, cool, and clean. During this time, I also cooked the eggs and placed them in an ice bath to peel later. I started with cold water and brought to a boil. Once the water comes to a boil I shut off the stove, covered the pan, and let the eggs sit for exactly 10 minutes. They come out perfect, every time.
I have an authentic Portuguese casserole and I was so happy to use it. As it says in the recipe, I took the casserole proudly to the table after letting it rest for a few minutes.
I added the parsley at the end as instructed but I added the eggs and the olives to each of the plates. I also added another drizzle of olive oil. At the first bite, I was transported. Salt, creamy potatoes, eggs, it was incredible. The potatoes were tender and everything in this plate made sense. The casserole was not dry, the seasoning was spot on. I paired the casserole with a nice, not too sweet, rosé I had on hand. My husband and I enjoyed this dish very much. We are having leftovers tonight and I cannot wait for this beautiful flower pattern of potatoes and goodness.