08 June 2011

Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá

Portuguese classics will almost always include six or more of the following ingredients:

1. Bacalhau
2. Onions
3. Garlic
4. Potatoes
5. Eggs
6. Olives
7. Parsley and/or fresh cilantro
8. Lots of olive oil

With these pantry staples, one could create a week's worth of meals, each one different than the last, but each one the same.  It is thrifty and mind boggling-- and something I never much noticed before I started documenting this journey into bacalhau.

I am mildly unsurprised, then, to present a dish which embodies ALL of these ingredients: Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá.

Bacalhau Gomes de Sá is named for its creator, as many bacalhau dishes are.  In this case that creator was José Luís Gomes de Sá, born the son of a wealthy cod merchant in 1851.  Unfortunately, by the time he was a young man the family fortune had collapsed, leaving José with no choice but to take a job.  He became a cook at the well-known Restaurante Lisbonense in Porto.  While working there, he created this dish-- somewhat ironically, considering the source and demise of his family fortune-- and the Portuguese have not stopped loving it since.

There isn't much of a secret to this dish.  One of its charms is how quickly it comes together.

One word of caution: you should definitely NOT worry about calories and skimp on the olive oil.  Not only does this dish taste horrible when its components are too dry, the mere thought of skimping on olive oil is so anti-Portuguese it doesn't belong anywhere near bacalhau.  Think of it as indulging in the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet!


3 out of 5 fins
It is a good dish.  Really.  How can you go wrong when you put olive oil all over potatoes and eggs and olives?  But alas, it is not exciting.  So it gets three fins, and I will undoubtedly make it again and try fiddling around with it, thereby making it either really great (5 fins!) or nearly inedible (1 fin).  I will keep you posted.

Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá
serves 4

1 pound of bacalhau pieces, desalted
1 1/2 pounds of small white potatoes (waxy, not starchy)
4 eggs
1/3 cup of olive oil
2 large white onions, in half moon slices
5 cloves of garlic, diced
salt and pepper to taste
20-30 small black olives
chopped fresh Italian parsley

1. Boil the bacalhau for 5-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the pieces.  When done, remove the fish and let cool, but keep the water boiling.

2. Add the potatoes to the bacalhau water, and cook until tender. Drain and set aside until cool enough to handle.

3. Hardboil the 4 eggs, then set aside to cool until they can easily be handled.

4. Heat the olive oil in a deep skillet over a medium-low heat.  Add the onion and let cook slowly until transluscent but not brown.  Add the garlic, cover, and let steam until soft and fragrant.

5. Meanwhile, remove the skin and bones from the bacalhau and shred it.  Slice the potatoes into rounds.  Peel the eggs and slice into rounds.

6. Add the bacalhau to the onions and garlic.  Let cook for a few minutes, and then add the potatoes and parsley and stir them in gently until everything is incorporated.

7. Place the cod mixture into a baking dish.  (In some recipe variations, at this point you can put the casserole in a hot oven until the potatoes get crispy. Feel free to try it if you like!)

8. Top with the egg rounds and the olives.  Serve immediately.


  1. Now, this one my grandma used to make. It was my absolute favorite.

    I miss her cooking :(

  2. i just love reading your blogs, and the pictures are great.