Creamy Salt Cod Casserole
If you are looking for an alternative to the traditional roast meats of Christmas dinner, try this creamy, cheesy cod fish dish. Originally from Portugal, bacalhau com natas is a one-pan feast with salted cod, potatoes, cream, and plenty of cheese. Buttery, savory, and with a hint of warming spices, it is comfort food at its finest. We top it with olives and boiled eggs for a true Brazilian twist.
Bacalhau in Brazil
Salted cod fish, or bacalhau, is very popular in Brazil, where it is featured in numerous traditional recipes. You may be familiar with the famous fritters known as bolinhos de bacalhau, a particular favorite during Rio’s Carnival. It is also the main ingredient in a casserole called Bacalhau a Gomes de Sá, which is similar to today’s recipe but omits the cream sauce and cheese.
Cod fish dishes, collectively known as bacalhoadas, are also the traditional meal of Good Friday in many parts of Brazil. As a largely Catholic nation, the majority of observers choose to abstain from eating meat. Fish, on the other hand, is acceptable, and bacalhau is by far the favorite.
Today’s bacalhau de natas is simple enough for a weeknight meal, but also special enough for a holiday get-together. It is also a fast alternative to traditional holiday roasts that take hours to prepare. The casserole comes together in minutes and finishes in the oven in under half an hour!
Salt cod needs to be soaked in cold water for at least six hours before being used in any recipe. This not only plumps up the dried fish but also removes a lot of the excess salt. Trust us, you won’t want to put dried bacalhau directly into a recipe-it is tough and extremely salty!
Do I Have to Use Salted Cod Fish?
No, you can substitute fresh or frozen cod fish in this recipe and it will still be quite good! Just take into account that you will need to adjust the salt level and prepare the fish slightly differently. Fresh or frozen fish will be better baked as opposed to simmered in water. Bake until just flaky and then fry according to the recipe below.
Bacalhau com Natas (Salt Cod with Cream Recipe)
4 Potatoes (peeled and sliced)
2 lbs of dried, salted cod fish (soaked overnight in cold water)
1 Onion (finely chopped)
2 cloves of Garlic (minced)
½ cup of diced green onions
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2.5 cups milk
1.5 cups heavy cream
1.5 cups mozzarella cheese
1 cup parmesan cheese
1 cup sliced green olives
6 hard boiled eggs
1.5 tsp salt (or more to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
- Rinse the cod fish and place in a saucepan. Cover it with hot water and bring to a simmer. Simmer on medium for about five minutes. Strain the fish and set aside on paper towels.
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease a baking dish with olive oil.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil.
- Fry the potato slices in batches until golden brown. Season with salt and pepper. Add them to the bottom of your greased casserole dish.
- Fry the salted cod in the same pan until crisp and flaky. Remove and drain excess grease on paper towels. Put the cooked fish in a layer over the potatoes in the casserole dish. Sprinkle the fish layer with sliced green olives.
- Using the same pan, melt the two tablespoons of butter and saute your diced onion until just translucent. Add in your garlic and cook until fragrant (about 1 minute).
- Add in the flour and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.
- Now, slowly add in your milk and fresh cream. Whisk to fully incorporate and bring to a boil. The mixture should thicken to a bechamel sauce. Season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of fresh nutmeg (remember that the salt and cheese will be salty, so don’t be reserved with the additional salt).
- Pour the sauce over the fish and potatoes in the casserole dish. Top with mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
- Bake in the preheated oven for twenty minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown.
- Garnish with halved boiled eggs and green onions. Enjoy with crusty bread or white rice.