25 March 2013

Bolinhos de Bacalhau

Whenever Portuguese family and friends are gathered together, little fried balls of bacalhau and potato-- bolinhos de bacalhau-- are likely to show up on a table nearby. They are a type of snack called salgados, a subset of petiscos that describes a variety of similar fried savory bites.

I have attempted bolinhos de bacalhau once before, the night I did petiscos.  Those are not featured on the petisco blog post because they were horrid, bland, lead balloons. Bacalhau fail. But not being one to give up easily, one rainy Saturday I decided to try again. I threw myself into the task of making these light on the inside, crispy on the outside bacalhau and potato fritters.

Bacalhau success!

Kitty approved!
The key difference between this time and the last is that I used very starchy potatoes instead of more waxy ones, and I let the mixture cool for a bit in the fridge before attempting to fry it. I can't say for certain which of these things was the key to success this time around-- but I suspect it is wise to do both.


4 out of 5 fins
One area in which I need to improve is in my shaping technique-- ideally these should look like perfect quenelles, evenly browned on all sides. Alas, that will have to wait for another rainy day. One doesn't become a perfect Portuguese dona da casa overnight!

In the meantime, these were absolutely delicious, light and fluffy and crispy and perfect with a plainly dressed side salad for a cozy lunch. Highly recommended, and suitable for the bacalhau novice as well. The flavor of the fish is subtle when surrounded by potato, and the texture makes them fairly addictive.

Bolinhos de Bacalhau
Saltcod fritters
serves 4 for a meal, more if served as a snack

2 pounds starchy potatoes
1 1/2 pounds bacalhau, soaked and desalted
1 onion
1 handful of roughly chopped fresh parsley
6 large eggs
salt and pepper to taste
vegetable oil for frying

1. Peel and cut the potatoes to more or less the same size, so they will cook evenly. Cover with water and bring to a boil, then simmer until they almost give easily when pierced with a fork. Add the bacalhau and cook for another 3-5 minutes, until the water starts to get foamy and the fish and potatoes are soft but not mushy. Drain the potatoes and cod and let everything cool for a few minutes.

2. Remove the bones and skin from the bacalhau. Place the meat of the fish in a tea towel, close the top and twist it tighter and tighter until the excess moisture come out. Keep wringing and kneading the towel to completely shred the bacalhau into fine threads. Mash the potato also, either with an electric mixer or a ricer.

3. Combine the cod shreds, potatoes, onion and parsley in a big bowl. Once they are mixed, add the eggs and use your hands to mush everything together into a wet consistency that will just hold its shape when formed into balls. Add salt and pepper to taste. (Be careful with the salt, as the cod will add saltiness.) Put the mixture in the fridge to cool for about an hour before proceeding with the next step. This will help the dough stick together when you fry it and keep it light and fluffy inside.

4. Heat a large pot over medium-high heat with at least 2 inches of oil in the pan. It should come up to about 375F (190C). (If you don't have a thermometer, you can test it with a bit of the dough-- if the mixture sizzles when dropped into the pot and holds its shape, it is just the right heat.) While the oil is heating, you can form your dough into formal quenelles using two spoons (see how here), or just roll them into rough football shapes like I did, if you are more anxious to cook them up than to impress guests.

5. Cook the bolinhos until they are golden brown and cooked through, which will only take a few minutes. Be sure not to crowd the pan, and give the little balls room to roll around in that oil. When they are done, remove with a slotted spoon and dry on paper towel.

6. I like them best served while piping hot, but more typically they are eaten at room temperature when the crisp shell has gone a bit softer. Either way, they go great with a little salad and a nice Sagres or Super Bock beer.

1 comment:

  1. These are beautiful -- and look so delicious! These seem like a perfect party snack. (Are watching sports at home while snacking an American thing only? I know BB has tix to Sporting, but where does he watch the road games?) Oh, and I've only had luck making crabcakes when the mixture was cooled for a bit...