Sunday, November 10, 2019

Less than Traditional Pastéis de Bacalhau (Salt Cod Fritters) #EattheWorld

It's hard to believe that 2019 is almost over. This is the second to the last month of the year for our #EattheWorld project, being spearheaded by Evelyne of CulturEatz. Here's her challenge.

This month she said, "This month we are going to Portugal, a country I just visited for the 1st time and fell in love with! Join us on November 10th, 2019 10 am with a Portuguese recipe." Before I get to my post, please take a look at the offerings...

A Portuguese Connection

My mother-in-law is half-Portuguese and half-Swedish. We don't get to see her as often as we'd like, unfortunately, so I try to make cultural connections to my boys' heritage through food. So we've explored several different dishes from Portugal, including Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato that I paired with Vinho Verde for a Wine Pairing Weekend event in 2017; Carne de Porco à Alentejana that was inspired by The Martian; I made Arroz de Cenouras and Garoupa de São Miguel almost as long ago as I've been blogging; and I recently made Frango à Passarinho and Pão de Queijo to pair with a sparkling wine from Brazil.

Pastéis de Bacalhau
Salt Cod Fritters

When I was looking for recipes that we haven't tried yet, I came across Pastéis de Bacalhau (Salt Cod Fritters). We have had similar fritters when our Spanish friends cooked for us. Okay, they are from Spain and theirs were Croquetas de Pollo. So, different country and different protein. But the process seemed similar, so I went with it and swapped in salt cod.

Bacalhau is the Portuguese word for 'cod' and, specifically as an ingredient as 'dried, salted cod.' Fresh, unsalted cod is referred to as bacalhau fresco. Drying and salting are ancient techniques to preserve foods from spoiling. Portuguese fishermen adopted the salt-based curing techniques from the Basque fishermen in the late 1500s and it quickly became a staple food.

Because it's salt-cured, it does need to be soaked overnight to remove the saltiness before it's cooked. As I mentioned, the Portuguese version seemed very similar to Spanish croquetas we've had. And my friend Susana shared Juan's mom's process with me.

These crispy, bite-sized logs of smooth chicken (photo above) in a breadcrumb blanket were delicious! I've adapted that Spanish recipe to use bacalhau and to be gluten-free, so my Pastéis de Bacalhau are slightly less than traditional.

  • 4 T olive oil
  • 1 T onion, peeled and chopped finely
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and pressed
  • 1 C milk, room temperature
  • 3 T corn starch
  • 1/4 t freshly ground nutmeg
  • freshly ground salt, to taste
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 T dry cooking wine
  • 1 lb finely shredded salt cod that's been soaked for 24 hours and, then, boiled with bay leaves first
  • 1 to 2 t herbs, optional
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 1 C ground hazelnuts (traditional would be breadcrumbs, but I was making them gluten-free)
  • vegetable oil for frying
Heat olive oil in a saucepan and sauté onions and garlic on medium-low heat. Slowly whisk in milk, corn starch, and freshly ground nutmeg. Whisk constantly stir until a thick sauce forms. Pour in the cooking wine and add the shredded and prepped salt cod to the sauce. Mix it all together and let it simmer for 5 to 7 minutes on low heat. Stir in herbs, if using.

Let the filling cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours. The must be chilled in order to form them into the pastéis. Remove filling from refrigerator. Form the pastéis with between 1 to 2 T  filling. Roll in beaten egg and coat them with ground hazelnuts.

Place on a parchment paper-lined tray until all of the croquetas are done. In rimmed pan, pour in enough vegetable oil to cover the pastéis at least halfway up. Let heat until it spatters if you add a drop of water.

Gently lower the pastéis into the hot oil. Fry each one until golden brown, approximately 2 minutes per side. Roll the pastéis to the other side for another 2 minutes if the oil doesn't cover them completely. Once nicely browned, remove from oil and drain on paper towels. 

Serve hot. Enjoy!


  1. I have never had salt cod. I guess I'm a little intimidated by it. I have heard horror stories but your fritters look so good.

  2. We LOVED these in Portugal, and I have a chunk of salt cod in my fridge that I've just been waiting to figure out what to do with it (first time using it) - Now I know just what to do! Thanks!


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