Food to me is all about memory, history and stories. This dish is one of those items that speaks to me of childhood, comfort and tradition. I spent 5 years of my childhood (ages 3-8) in Southern Europe traveling through various countries with my parents, meeting people, seeing places and discovering something inside myself (even at such a young age) that would carry forever, the spirit of the wandering nomad and a sense of cultural and intellectual curiosity. Portuguese food is comfort food, and fish is at the core of its cultural history; nothing more so than cod or bacalhau. There are many ways to cook bacalhau, but this is my absolute favorite!
- 2 cups milk
- 4 russet potatoes, chopped
- 1 Spanish onion, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 1 teaspoon cayenne powder or chili powder
- 1 pound good-quality salted cod
- 1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon cilantro, finely chopped
- 2 eggs
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup vegetable oil, for frying
- 2 lemons sliced thinly
Soak the dried cod in cold water for a day, changing the water 3-4 times. Drain the cod, rinse, and put it in a large pot. Add the milk and enough water to cover an inch. Simmer gently over medium-low heat for 20 to 25 minutes, until the cod is tender. Drain and rinse the cod well, removing any little bits of skin and bone.
While the cod is cooking, pour 1-inch of water in a large pot. Add the potatoes and simmer on medium heat for 20 to 25 minutes until very tender. Drain the potatoes, peel off the skins, and mash them well with a potato masher.
In a bowl, add the cod to the potatoes, along with the onion, garlic, cayenne/chili powder, parsley, cilantro, and eggs. Beat the mixture firmly with a spoon until it is a smooth and even consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Shape the cod mixture into medium sized balls.
Pour the oil in a deep heavy skillet or pot and place it on high heat. Add the balls one by one, turning them over until they are golden brown. Once done remove the fritters and place them on a plate with paper towels to dry.
Serve while hot with the sliced lemons for extra flavor.