Salt Cod for Breakfast

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As you might remember from my post, simply called salt cod, I’ve been on a mission to find this fish for years. I have spotted it on a few websites, but the shipping was always horrendous, so I never followed through with an online order.

My daughter who lives in London assured me that she could purchase salt cod at a Portuguese Market. So just before coming home for a summer visit a couple years ago, she did just that. I repeat the word, SUMMER. I picked her up at the airport in the city. Then we went out to lunch and did some shopping…. all the while forgetting about the salt cod in her suitcase. Well, that was a lesson learned. Do not ever leave salt cod in a hot car!

But now I finally have my hands on some salt cod after years of searching, thanks to Whole Foods. This recipe is an attempt to duplicate a dish my mother made years ago. I’m not sure about the specifics of it, but I think I remembered all of the major components. So here’s my version:

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Salt Cod and Poached Egg with White Sauce and Capers
Serves 4

1/2 stick butter
1 onion, sliced
3 small red potatoes, cut into 3/4″ cubes
10 – 12 ounces pre-soaked salt cod, cut into pieces
1/4 cup half and half
4 poached eggs

White sauce:
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
1 3/4 cups half and half
Capers

Heat the butter in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the onion and potatoes, and sauté them for about 10 minutes. They should be nicely caramelized.

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Push the pieces of cod under the potatoes and onions, then pour the half and half over the top. Make sure the mixture is boiling, then cover the skillet and turn down the heat to the lowest position. Cook for 20 minutes without disturbing it.

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After cooking, the mixture will look like this:

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To make the white sauce, melt 1/2 stick butter in a pan over medium heat. When it has completely melted, add the flour and whisk them both together well. Then pour in the half and half, whisking all the while, and continue mixing until it thickens. See white sauce if you’ve never made one.

f you like, season the sauce with black or white pepper, but don’t add salt. Remove from the stove but leave the whisk in the white sauce.

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To prepare the individual servings, divide the salt cod and potato mixture between four bowls and gently add the poached egg. Give the white sauce a whisk, add a generous amount, then top with some capers.

Salt Cod

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Salt cod has been very difficult for me to find, especially since I live in the landlocked middle of the United States. But I’ve been on a mission for find it because I have such great memories of the ways my mother used to cook with it. We lived in Seattle for three years when I was growing up, and I’m guessing because of the abundance of cod in Puget Sound, that salt cod was more prevalent there as well.

As a child I remember loving the little wooden box that it came in – the top slid in and out and it was just so cute. Unfortunately, I could never quite get rid of the nasty fishy smell, so the cute box never remained in my possession for long…

But those were really my only memories, except for the divine way my mother served the salt cod with a white sauce, topped with a few capers. I really wanted to attempt to duplicate this and a couple of other recipes. I’ve always loved fish, but I’ve been obsessed with playing in the kitchen with salt cod. There’s just something different about it!

For any of you not familiar with salt cod, it’s simply filets of cod that have been preserved in salt – a remnant preservation technique from the old days. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever find it, especially since we don’t have problems like lack of refrigeration these days. But then I came across salt cod at a Whole Foods store! It still exists! And it was in the little wooden boxes that I remember! I hurriedly grabbed a couple like it was a popular children’s toy at Christmas, and excitedly brought the salt cod home to start planning recipes.

When you first open up the box and unwrap the cod, you won’t be very impressed with it at all. The cod is salted and then dried, so it looks like dried up salty fish!

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What you have to do is soak it in cold water for at least two days, replenishing the water a couple of times a day. Otherwise, the cod will be too salty, and not in a good salty way.

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After the two days are up, it’s time for one final rinse, then dry on paper towels, and choose a recipe. Recipes are easy to find, especially if you look into Portuguese recipes, in which case it’s called bacalao, or Italian recipes, which is baccalà. But I’ll post a few salt cod recipes, as well! Watch for future posts!

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