There are so many cod dishes in Portuguese cuisine – the Portuguese don’t call it “faithful friend” for nothing that they boast of having at least as many recipes as there are days in the year. Among them we find the tasty formula that concerns us, Cod Gomes de Sá. What is currently known as the king ingredient of Portuguese cuisine, cod is a fish extracted from the sea thousands of kilometers from land and does not exist or has ever existed in its waters. How did this leading role in our neighbor’s gastronomy come about? During the Middle Ages, salt was one of the most coveted Portuguese commodities, which interested the Nordic cod fishers, among others. As told by our colleague David Remartínez, the Vikings were the first to dry cod, but they lacked salt. However, the preservation of a dried fish improves if it is cured with it in the first phase.
It seems to be this exchange of fish for salt, alongside the Catholic ban on eating meat during Lent, that popularized the consumption of cod in Portugal, which the Portuguese bought from the fishing villages of northern Europe from the 14th century. It is the mid-15th century, after the “rediscovery” of the Americas, when they venture with their own fleet to fish for cod in the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, an extensive fishing area on the continental shelf off the east coast of Canada that stretches many kilometers In the Atlantic.
In these waters, which are no deeper than 200 meters, the warm Gulf Stream and the icy Labrador Current rub against each other and circulate in opposite directions: this combination of fortunate circumstances has made it one of the richest fishing grounds on earth, a paradise for fish in general and cod in general particular; Waters where you could almost fish, dipping baskets into the water to pull them out full of fish. Until people shred it, of course. Curiously, it heads to one of those Grand Banks, Flemish Cap, where George Clooney’s fishing boat in The Perfect Storm tries his luck. And then they say that fish is expensive.
As Mark Kurlansky recounts in an exciting book on the history of stockfish, Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World, fishing began in Newfoundland for most Europeans – the aforementioned Vikings and even the Basques fished there as early as the Middle Ages – from 1497 with the enthusiasm of the gold rush. By 1508, 10% of the fish sold in the Portuguese ports of Douro and Minho was Newfoundland cod. By the mid-16th century, 60% of all fish consumed in Europe was cod, a percentage that would remain stable for the next two centuries. However, the Portuguese fishing boats in Newfoundland were driven out in the 16th century by English and French corsairs, nationalities who from then on came to dominate the fisheries in this area. And the Portuguese had already taken a liking to cod.
Until the 19th century it was not consumed in Portugal in a proportion comparable to that of today – Portugal taking the pie for fish consumption per capita in Europe -; It was, nonetheless, a meal more typical of the wealthy classes than the humble, who flocked to sardines. The large-scale consumption of cod in the neighboring country, which began in the 19th century, grew exponentially with the Salazar dictatorship, the so-called Estado Novo, from 1934 when fishing was centralized and state-organized in order to reduce outside dependency and ensure the country’s food supply.
This Gomes de Sá cod recipe comes from the recipe book The Taste of Portugal by Edite Vieira; The author comments that when there are many variations on a popular dish, the most elaborate usually turns out to be the original. Legend has it that the name of this dish is attributed to the fact that it was created by a merchant from the city of Porto, and since today’s version has been confirmed by the descendants of that merchant, they say that the secret lies in soaking the cod in Milk. . Side note: I firmly believe that excellent quality cod and perfectly desalinated not only does not need to be soaked in milk, but the effect is almost nil. Hala, you Portuguese can chase me with pitchforks and torches.
Finding a quality cod we don’t leave half salary.
for 4 people
- 450 g salted cod
- 200 ml whole milk
- 600 grams of potatoes
- 4 tbsp. Of olive oil
- 1 large onion
- 2 cloves of garlic
- Salt to taste
- Pitted black olives
- 2 hard boiled eggs
- Fresh Parsley
Desalt the cod by placing it in cold water in the fridge, well covered with water that we change more or less every eight hours for a period of 24 to 48 hours depending on the size of the pieces; the larger they become for desalination.
Drain the desalinated cod. Put water in a saucepan that will fit the cod pieces and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and add the cod pieces, cover the pot and let the cod cook on the remaining heat for at least 15 minutes, although this will depend on the thickness of the pieces.
Remove the cod from the hot water and let cool; Once warm, crumble by hand and place in a bowl.
Heat the milk until it boils and cover the cod with it. Soak in the milk for at least an hour and a half, cover well.
Wash the potatoes and cook them with the skin on in a saucepan of water or in a container in the microwave, sprinkled with a finger of water and tightly closed. When soft, let cool and peel. Also boil the eggs for 10 minutes and refresh in cold water.
Meanwhile, peel and slice the onion and sauté in olive oil over low heat until smooth and translucent. Add the laminated garlic and give it a few turns.
Add the boiled and sliced potatoes, as well as the cod drained from the milk, to the onion. Cook over very low heat until just barely browned, 10 minutes, turning occasionally.
Check the spices and add salt if needed. Put the whole thing in a casserole dish and lightly toast on the grill. Mix immediately with the hard-boiled eggs, serve with the olives and parsley.
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