A re-adaptation of a recipe for BOLHINOS DE BACALHAU from Portugal (and perhaps similar versions in Spain and probably Brazil too). I’ve been jumping from country to country in my latest recipe posts. PORTUGAL is geographically not a MEDITERRANEAN country, physically facing the rougher Atlantic Ocean on one side and bordering Spain on the other. Yet its heart, its soul and its ways are all typical of the Mediterranean way-of-life.
*This is how I see things (and I’m no geographer).
I guess my obsession and/or devotion to Mediterranean food isn’t as much geographic as it is topographic. What I mean is that I draw inspiration from “coastal” approaches to cooking that seem spontaneous and natural, with either fresh and/or preserved foods and flavors, even though these coastal practices & flavors tend to travel more-and-more inland and are adopted by most continental folks.
I was cleaning out the fridge and doing an inventory before the beginning of my mid-May to mid-July work-marathon (which began 4 weeks ago). Half a bag of lovely but visually scary DRIED & SALTED COD was sitting there, all lonely and wrapped up and nowhere in particular to go … !
Being non-Portuguese (through blood ties but not through heart & soul), I may not eat as much seafood as they do and yet my appreciation and fondness for salt cod or “bacalhau is well-known. This is recipe number 6 using this precious ingredient.
Fish croquettes and/or fish cakes and/or fish balls and/or fritters (it’s all a question of shape & size) are no big deal but when done right, they can be light & heavenly (even though their main ingredients originates from the deeper oceans and deep inside the soil and not the soaring blue skies).
There’s a place nearby and down the street that specializes in these “bolhinos de bacalhau” but last time they were different. Once again, it’s these little differences that attract my attention.
They were airy & fluffy !
Not heavy, despite of all the potatoes and fish and frying. Normally people just add whole eggs into the mixture, as a binder. This version, at this restaurant, in my neighborhood, just down the street, actually separated the egg yolks from the egg whites and those egg whites were then whipped until frothy like meringues and then incorporated or folded in with the rest of the mixture. You actually had a few air pockets in the fish cakes when you took a bite ! What more can you ask for ?
Sure it takes time to soak the salt cod in water and if you’re being a purist and using the ultra-dry and salted pieces, first soaking then skinning and de-boning (it’s actually the part that takes the longest) and rubbing the fish flakes in a kitchen towel to actually shred the flesh. It will require some effort. It must be done with love. Be patient.
This is why you should make a lot. Just freeze the extras because they’re friendly in the freezer if you dredge them in breadcrumbs first so they don’t stick (even though they’re not made that way traditionally). A few extra additions are not traditional either but it all works perfectly together, the additions of celery, dill & chives, TRUST ME, they’re divine.
TCHAUL, ATÉ LOGO; that’s Portuguese for “BYE, SEE YOU LATER” . . . :)