22 July 2011

Bacalhau Bread Stuffing

It's not pretty, folks.  But like Mama always says, it's what on the inside that counts.

This week's bacalhau began as a traditional Portuguese recipe: Bacalhau Espiritual.  Then I read the recipe again, and realized I didn't have any carrots.  Or green olives.  (And I didn't think Bacalhau Boy would eat either of those things anyhow.)


I looked in the fridge, and I saw some linguiça that we didn't eat up on petisco night.  And a bunch of bread in the freezer which was languishing, waiting for just such a moment as this.

Yeah, I know.  It's a big risk when you start out a recipe by thinking: how can I use up everything in my fridge and/or freezer?

The experiment ended with a homey Thanksgiving stuffing with a dose of spicy linguiça and salty cod.  And I didn't even have to run to the supermarket.

3 out of 5 fins
Bacalhau Boy and I are not on the same page about this one.  BB eyed the mound of bready bacalhau suspiciously, mustered up a few words of politeness, and declared that it was not his favorite.  I am guesstimating here, but that's gotta be a 2 out of 5 at most.  I, on the other hand, found the casserole of garlicky, spicy stuffing one of the most approachable ways I have ever eaten bacalhau.  The crispy top and the linguiça pieces were delish.  It wasn't utterly dominated by bacalhau, a plus in my book: 4 out of 5 from me.

The two things we agreed on?
1. Inappropriate weather.  Not the fault of the dish, but c'mon-- who makes a big old plate of stuffing in the middle of summer?  (My bad.)  
2. Limited visual appeal.  As in, huge block o' beige.  While my photography skills are not that great, I suspect even a seasoned pro wouldn't be able to make this look enticing...

(On the other hand, if you save this for a cool rainy day and sit around eating it with your honey in sweatpants-- YUM.  Comfort comida portuguesa!)

Bacalhau Bread Stuffing
Serves 8-10

1 pound of bacalhau, desalted
4 bay leaves
1/3 cup olive oil
2-3 fingers of linguiça
1 large onion
4 cloves of garlic
12 slices of stale bread
1 cup milk
2 eggs
ground black pepper
chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup shredded mozzerella

1. Preheat the oven to 400F (200C).  Set a large pot of water to boil, along with the bay leaves.  When the water is boiling rapidly, add the bacalhau and cook for 10-15 minutes.  Remove the bacalhau to a bowl and let it cool down.  In the meantime, reserve 2 cups of the cooking liquid.  Once the bacalhau has cooled, remove it from the skin and bones and shred into pieces.

2. In a large saute pan, set the olive oil over a medium heat.  Slice the linguiça into small rounds, and cook in the hot oil until it colors and the linguiça is starting to get crispy.  Dice the onion and garlic, add to the saute pan, cover, and lower the heat to its lowest point.  Let the mixture cook and soften for 5-10 minutes, checking on it every once in a while to make sure it is not browning.

3. While that is cooking, take the bread and tear it into pieces into a large bowl.  Add the 2 cups of reserved liquid and 1 cup of milk.  Let soak until the onion mixture is done cooking.

4.  Add the shredded bacalhau to the onion mixture once the onions are thoroughly soft.  Stir it around to coat the bacalhau in the olive oil.  Add the entire mixture into the big bowl with the bread and liquid, mushing it all around and making sure the bacalhau, linguiça, and onions are well distributed throughout.  (I do this with my hands, I find it is easier!)

5. Add in the eggs, lightly beaten, pepper, and parsley to taste.  Mush it together some more until the eggs are incorporated, and then turn it out into a 9x13-inch pan, smoothing out the top more or less.

6. Top with the shredded cheese, and pop it into the preheated oven.  Let it bake until the cheese forms a golden crispy top, about 20 minutes.


  1. Mmm--i do love a savory bread pudding. There's actually a Ina Garten/Smitten Kitchen tomato + basil bread pudding that owned me last summer. Might be a good use for that booming garden of yours ;)

  2. Oooh! Well, you overestimate my garden. The "boom" was successfully used up in one dish. However, I think that recipe sounds so delicious I may have to go out and buy some tomatoes for the occasion! Thanks for (another) great tip.