Flavors of Brazil published an article about the importance of salt cod (bacalhau) in the Brazilian celebration of Christmas. (Click here to read more.) Brazilians, like many of us, associate the Christmas meal with turkey, but the historical and emotional connections between this holiday season and salt cod are equally strong for Brazilians in all reaches of the country. A sumptious Christmas buffet for the entire extended family in Brazil will most likely have both a turkey and a dish made from salt cod.
So, in the Brazilian spirit of the season, we're offering up this easy-to-make and easy-to-love recipe for salt cod. Though the name refers to Provence, in France, the recipe is traditional Brazilian. The name Provençal might simply be due to the presence of ingredients that are essential to the cuisine of the Mediterranean coast of France - olives, bay leaves, white wine and olive oil (lots of olive oil). Whatever the reason for the name, it's a dish that graces many a Christmas dinner table in Brazil, and one that is worthy of a place at your table- at any time of year.
RECIPE - Salt Cod Provençal (Bacalhau Provençal)
Serves 8 to 10 as part of a buffet
4 lb (2 kg) desalted salt cod (bacalhau) - click here for desalting instructions
2 lb (1 kg) medium boiling potatoes, unpeeled, cooked until they are barely al dente
1/2 cup pitted black olives, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup pitted green olives, coarsely chopped
1 cup (250 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup )125 ml) dry white wine
4/5 bay leaves
salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
Bring to a boil in a large sauce pan plenty of water and the bay leaves. When the water boils, reduce heat slightly and add the desalted salt cod. Let cook for five minutes, then drain the fish and let cool. When the fish is cool, remove any large bones or pieces of skin that you find. Cut the fish into large chunks and reserve.
Preheat the oven to 400F (200C). In a enameled metal, glass or ceramic casserole dish distribute the chunks of salt cod on the bottom, season with black pepper and pour the white wine over. Strew the potatoes on top of the fish then pour half of the olive oil over all. Put in the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the casserole from the oven and sprinkle the olives over the surface, then return the dish to the oven for 5 more minutes.
Remove the dish from the oven, pour the remaining olive oil over all, then either serve immediately, or let the dish cool until it's just warm and serve.