23 August 2012

Bacalhau com Grão

Hello? Remember me? Bacalhau blogger who went missing for a few months? I feel horrible about my long absence, but I have an excuse for at least four months of it. Morning sickness.

That's right, a Bacalhau Baby is on the way, and for quite a long while the little munchkin made it impossible for me to eat anything normal. Cooking? What's that? Bacalhau Boy ate a lot of frozen meals and a lot of pizza while I tried to keep nausea at bay with plain pasta, bread, and any fizzy drink I could stomach. Good times!

Thankfully, that has passed and I am feeling great. In fact, I am getting good and pudgy and ready to make up for lost time by cooking and eating as many good things as possible.

Included on that list of good things: a delicious meal of Bacalhau com Grão, or saltcod with chickpeas.

This dish is a big departure from most bacalhau dishes-- no potatoes! Not sliced, shredded, mashed, boiled, deep fried, or roasted. It is one of the very few non-potatoed bacalhau dishes I have encountered. If you are a low-carb dieter who has been shying away from the potato content of these bacalhau recipes, now is the time to taste!

Speaking of taste, I have to confess that the traditional preparation of this dish-- boiled bacalhau pieces and boiled chickpeas with a side of olive oil, chopped raw onion, and parsley-- leaves a lot to be desired. It is, to my palate, pretty darn boring. And after four months of boring bread products, I was not about to settle for bland bacalhau. So purists beware-- this recipe is not your grandma's bacalhau com grão.

I decided to mimic one of my favorite chickpea stew recipes, letting the beans soak in plenty of flavor from onion, garlic, tomato paste, bay leaf, paprika, and saffron. After stewing the beans for a while, all you need to do is poach the bacalhau on top of the beans themselves. A one-pot meal that is simple, healthy, and packed with flavor.


4 out of 5 fins
This dish gets high marks for ease of preparation and comfort food levels of taste. It was also fun to see Bacalhau Boy so shocked when he saw it on the table. It not only was the first proper meal he'd seen on that table for many weeks, it was also very different from what he knew bacalhau com grão to be. This was no cause for concern, though-- he scarfed down two big pieces of bacalhau, commenting on how tender it was. And he was right, the poaching brought out a delicate nature to the fish which you usually only get in fresh cod. The chickpeas were a great accompaniment, and if I say so myself, they were a grand improvement over their plain boiled cousins.

Bacalhau com Grão
Saltcod with Chickpeas
serves 4

2 medium onions, sliced into half-moons
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
1 can of chickpeas, well-rinsed*
3 teaspoons of tomato paste
3/4 cup white wine
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon saffron
salt and pepper to taste
4 medium-to-large filets of saltcod, soaked and desalted
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

1. Heat the olive oil in a deep skillet with a lid over a medium heat until just hot. Add the onions and garlic, turn the heat down to medium-low, put the lid on and let it soften for about ten minutes. Check occasionally to stir and make sure the onion is not browning and the garlic is not burning.

2. Once the onion mixture is soft and translucent, add the rinsed chickpeas and mix well. Add in the tomato paste, wine, bay leaves, paprika, saffron, salt and pepper, and enough water to just cover the chickpeas. Turn the heat up to medium-high to bring to a simmer, then keep it as a slow simmer for about 15 minutes with no lid.

3. Add the bacalhau pieces on top of the chickpea mixture (there should still be plenty of liquid in the pan), and cover. Let simmer slowly over a medium heat for about 15-20 minutes, until the bacalhau flakes easily and is cooked through.

4. Remove the bacalhau to a plate. If there is some liquid remaining in the chickpeas (as I had), you can strain the chickpeas and then toss the dry beans together with the fresh parsley. Serve with the fish and enjoy.

*If you are not in the middle of a heatwave, as we are, this dish could be made even more flavorful by cooking 1/2 cup of dried chickpeas in the broth for several hours. You would need to use more water, of course, and keep an eye on the beans to ensure they were soft enough before adding the bacalhau.

1 comment:

  1. Welcome back, missed your chronicles... and congratulations on the upcoming arrival of your baby.