These Portuguese salt cod fritters, called pastéis de bacalhau, are made with salt cod (it’s tasty, trust us!), potato, onion, and garlic and are fried for a traditional Portuguese treat.
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.–Edite Vieira
LC Something Fishy? Note
If you’re just not down with salted cod, or for some reason can’t find it, the author notes that these cod cakes are also quite nice made with fresh cod. Just saying….
Special Equipment: Deep-fry or candy or instant-read thermometer
Pastéis de Bacalahau | Salt Cod Fritters
- Quick Glance
- 1 H
- 1 H, 15 M
- Makes 24 to 30 hors d'oeuvres
- 10 ounces salted cod, preferably thick pieces
- 14 ounces russet potatoes, unpeeled
- 1 small onion, very finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 3 large eggs
- Vegetable or canola oil, for frying
- 1. Rinse the cod well to wash away some of the surface salt. Place it in a roomy bowl, cover it with cold water, and set aside, changing the water 4 to 5 times for a total 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 the resulting cod cakes will be bland.
- 2. Boil the potatoes (preferably in their skins, so the potatoes don’t absorb water). Peel the potatoes and mash or sieve them. Set aside.
- 3. Meantime, simmer the cod in enough boiling water to cover until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the cod, discard the skin and bones, and flake the fish as much as you can with your fingers or 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 the cod with the mashed potatoes and add the eggs, 1 by 1, and then the onion and parsley. Taste and, if desired, season with salt. You may not need to add any, as the cod itself retains quite a lot of saltiness, in spite of being soaked and boiled. 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.
- 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.