José Luís Gomes de Sá, was born in Porto, on 7 February 1851. Gomes de Sá was the son of a rich 19th century cod trader in Porto. The family fortune dwindled as there was a devastating fire in the warehouse. José then had to find a job at Restaurante Lisbonense, a restaurant in downtown Porto where he created this recipe. Gomes de Sá was not only a cod trader but also a food connoisseur. He used a well-known recipe for bolinhos de bacalhau or cod fish cakes and with the same ingredients (minus the flour) decided to create a new recipe. Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá was born.
He sold the recipe to the owner of Restaurante Lisbonense for 50,000 reis at the time. The manuscript of the recipe attributed to Gomes de Sá has a famous note at the end : “João, se alterares qualquer coisa já não fica capaz” which can be translated to “João, if you change anything, you won’t succeed”.
A century later, this Portuguese bacalhau recipe has won multiple culinary prizes and was one of the 21 finalists in the competition to name the 7 gastronomic wonders of Portugal that Vera talked to us about in her caldo verde post.
Bacalhau recipes are very common in Portugal, but also in Galicia (Northwest of Spain) and in former Portuguese colonies including Cape Verde, Angola, Macau, Brazil and Goa. We published quite a few recipes with salted cod already including arroz con bacalao from Panama.
It is said that there are hundreds of bacalhau recipes in Portugal. Bacalhau is cod fish, but in the context of Portuguese cuisine, it is really dried and salted cod. Fresh cod (unsalted) is called bacalhau fresco. What is intriguing is even though Portuguese eat a lot of cod, it is probably the only fish that is not eaten fresh in Portugal!
Salted cod has been produced for more than 500 years. It was the best way to preserve food before the advent of refrigeration. The Portuguese had tried to use this method of drying and salting fish with numerous fish that they could find in their waters, but they eventually found the ideal fish in Newfoundland, long after the Basque arrived.
This was actually the second time I made this bacalhau recipe. We all love it and I will definitely make it again, although with the hundreds of bacalhau recipes out there, I might try bacalhau à Zé do Pipo or bacalhau com natas.
If you’re looking for the perfect wine to pair with bacalhau, green wine (vinho verde) or mature wines (Alentejo Wine, Dão Wine, or Douro Wine) are typically served with bacalao dishes.
- 2 lb salted cod
- 2 lb potatoes
- 2 cups milk
- 3 onions , sliced
- 3 cloves garlic , crushed
- 4 hard-boiled eggs
- ½ cup olive oil
- 20 black olives
- 1 bunch parsley
Soak the cod in water for 24 to 36 hours and change the water every 8 hours.
After cod is desalted, remove bones from cod and shred it in small pieces.
Bring milk to a boil then turn off the heat. Infuse cod pieces in hot milk for about 1 to 2 hours.
Peel potatoes and cook them in boiling water for 25 minutes.
Cut potatoes in ½ inch thick slices. Add salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Meanwhile, add the onions in a hot skillet with a little olive oil. Sauté for about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and continue cooking for 2 minutes.
In a casserole dish, drizzle ¼ cup of olive oil.
Add layers of potatoes, drained cod and the onion/garlic mixture. Season with salt and pepper.
Drizzle another ¼ cup of olive oil on top.
Bake for 40 minutes.
Garnish with quartered or sliced hard-boiled eggs, chopped parsley and black olives.