30 March 2011

Bacalhau Souffle

The saying goes that in Portugal, there are as many ways to prepare bacalhau as there are days in the year.  While this is a bit of an exaggeration, it nonetheless reflects the Portuguese love for their dried, salted codfish.

Like most New Englanders, I grew up on fresh codfish.  (OK, so I actually grew up on fish sticks and tater tots for Lenten Friday dinners.  But on the off-chance someone convinced me to eat a piece of fresh fish, it was most likely cod.)  Dried fish was only associated with the olden days.  My elementary school brought in experts from the Mystic Seaport to teach us about maritime history, with scrimshaw and rope bracelets being among the best things I ever learned in 19 years of schooling.  But we also learned about the hardships suffered at sea and the salted, dried fish that could go with sailors for long journeys.

And now, in the journey of my life, I have arrived in 2011 married to a wonderful Portuguese guy and living the good life in Lisbon-- and eating dried saltcod on romantic date nights.

In the interest of being an open-minded and good wife (and because I am not one to run from either curiosity or a challenge), I am making good use of a cooking magazine my mother-in-law gave me called simply "Bacalhau."  Right there on page 32 was a recipe I simply couldn't resist: Bacalhau Souffle.

As you can see from the picture above, the results were pretty impressive for a first try.  I have to admit that the light, eggy texture really worked with the flakes of cod inside.  Not to mention, it was an absolute breeze to make, which probably surprised me most of all.  If you are novice to the world of bacalhau and would like a soft, fluffy landing on your first trip, I highly suggest trying this one.

So, here is entry #1 in my journey with bacalhau.  If I get to #365, I guess we will know the old saying is true.  And if you find yourself adventurous enough to try this recipe (with fresh cod or salted), please tell me how it turns out for you!

Sûfle de Bacalhau
Bacalhau Souffle
serves 6

1 pound of bacalhau, or 3/4 pound of fresh codfish
1 onion, diced
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
2 cups warmed milk
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp of nutmeg
4 egg yolks
5 egg whites

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C).  Butter and flour the inside of a souffle pan, or any deep, round 8- or 9- inch casserole dish.

If you are using saltcod, be sure to soak for at least 2 days in the refrigerator, changing the water several times.  With either salt or fresh cod, flake the fish into small pieces and sauté briefly in 1 tsp of butter, until the fish is just done, about 2-3 minutes.  Set aside until ready to use.

Sauté the onion in the butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan until the butter has stopped bubbling.  Add the flour, stirring the mixture together until it is a smooth consistency and just begins to change color.  Add the warm milk slowly, whisking more or less constantly, and cook until the mixture begins to bubble and thicken.  Remove from the heat.  Add salt (if using salt cod, add carefully: you may not need more), pepper, and nutmeg. Let cool for 5 minutes.

In the meantime, prepare the egg whites.  Beat the cold egg whites with an electric mixer until medium firm peaks form. Take the egg yolks, separately, and beat roughly with a fork.

Add the yolks and the cod to the flour-milk mixture, stirring them in to blend.  Fold in the egg whites gently, allowing the air to remain in the whites.  Turn the mixture into the souffle pan and bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until the top is fluffy and lightly browned.

Serve immediately.


  1. First comment!!! YAY!!!

    Very interesting! and very easy to do. As I grew up, I have had A LOT of bacalhau, since my family is Portuguese... I haven't tried this recipe though.

    I'll definitely be cooking this one!!!
    And, if you look hard enough, I bet you could find more than 1000 ways of cooking bacalhau!!

    Good luck with this new project!


  2. Thanks, Tony! You'll have to give me some ideas for dishes with a Venezuelan flair! :)