Recipe courtesy of Denise Browning

Bacalhau Gratinado

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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 1 day 1 hr 20 min (includes soaking time)
  • Active: 30 min
  • Yield: 6 servings
This cod au gratin is the Brazilian version of the classic Portuguese dish made with salt cod, 'bacalhau com natas' (cod with cream). There are a few variations of this casserole in Brazil; most of the recipes don’t call for hard-boiled eggs and breadcrumbs like several Portuguese recipes do. Cod and potatoes are staples in Portuguese cuisine and many dishes made with them are quite popular in Brazil, too. They are often served for Christmas, Lent or Easter. If you love comfort food, this dish is for you!

Ingredients

Cod:

Béchamel Sauce:

Gratin:

Directions

  1. For the cod: If using salted dried cod, soak the cod in cold water, changing the water every 8 to 12 hours, for 24 hours to de-salt it.
  2. Transfer the cod to a medium pot. Pour in enough milk or water to cover, bring to a boil over high heat and boil until soft, 20 to 25 minutes. (If using thawed cod fillets, skip the soaking step. Follow the boiling process but add 2 tablespoons of salt to the pot and cook until soft, 8 to 10 minutes.)
  3. Transfer the fish to a cutting board. Remove the skin and using 2 forks, flake the fish to remove the bones easily; discard the skin and bones. Transfer the flaked cod to a large bowl and reserve.
  4. Meanwhile, place the potato chunks in a separate medium pot, add cold water to cover and a good pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Boil until fork-tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and reserve.
  5. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the oil and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Transfer the cod to the skillet and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and squeeze the juice of a lemon over it. Toss the mixture and transfer it back to the bowl. Toss the potatoes with it and reserve.
  6. For the béchamel sauce: Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Melt the butter and whisk in the flour gradually until it forms a blond roux or paste, 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly, until thickened, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the salt, pepper and nutmeg.
  7. For the gratin: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  8. Transfer the cod and potato mixture to the saucepan and mix in the heavy cream and 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan. Adjust the salt and pepper. Transfer the mixture to a lightly greased 2-quart baking dish, top evenly with the mozzarella and then with the remaining 4 tablespoons Parmesan.
  9. Bake on the middle rack, uncovered, until the cheese is fully melted and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Enjoy with a fresh green salad.

Cook’s Note

Although russet potatoes are easy to find, you may replace them with any kind of starchy potatoes or all-purpose potatoes such as Yukon. Avoid waxy potatoes at all costs. If you prefer, you may use Gruyère cheese instead of mozzarella for a richer dish. But most Brazilian dishes call for mozzarella and Parmesan, two of the most popular cheeses in Brazil.