Marriage introduced me to bacalao. My mother-in-law traditionally cooks a bacalao and vegetable dish during Lent and, every year, I remember how she’d remark about how the price of bacalao seems to go higher and higher.
Bacalao, or dried salted cod, was never cheap to begin with. But with the prices of fresh fish reaching mind-blowing proportions these days, bacalao no longer seems so pricey in comparison.
Bacalao is associated with Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, Brazilian and Puerto Rican cuisines. There are so many recipes with bacalao that it will probably take a lifetime to cook them all with all the known variations. This recipe is for a delicious chunky soup that uses common pantry ingredients.
I bought my bacalao from Shopwise (Libis). I forgot how much. There were four large pieces but I only used two to make the chowder.
To prepare the bacalao, thaw and place in a bowl. Cover with cold water. Cover. Place in the fridge for two days, changing the water every 12 hours to remove the excessive saltiness.
Rinse the bacalao. Place in a pot. Cover with water. Bring to the boil. Cover, lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Scoop out the bacalao and cool. Strain the broth. Once you have prepared the bacalao, you are ready to make the chowder.
Saute chopped onion, carrot and celery in butter. Yes, butter, not oil. You’re going to add cream to the balacao chowder later, and butter and cream just taste so much better than plain oil and cream.
So, yes, saute in butter.
Cubed potatoes go into the pot next followed by the strained bacalao broth.
It’ll take a while for the potatoes to cook so make use of that time to flake the bacalao which should be cool enough to handle at this point.
Cut the cabbage into thin strips.
When the potatoes are half done, the bacalao and cabbage go into the pot. Everything simmers together until done.
The last stage is adding the cream and adjusting the seasonings. Do this after the heat has been turned off to prevent the cream from curdling.
Bacalao (Bacalhau) Chowder
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1/2 cup diced carrot
- 1/3 cup diced celery
- 3 cups diced potatoes
- 6 to 8 cups bacalao broth
- 1 and 1/2 cups cooked flaked bacalao
- 4 to 5 large cabbage leaves (I used wombok but you can use white cabbage), thinly sliced
- 1 cup cream
- salt and pepper to taste
- pepper to taste
- Heat the butter. Add the chopped onion, carrot and celery. Cook gently, over medium-low heat, until softened, about 10 minutes.
- Add the potatoes. Stir.
- Pour in the broth. Bring to the boil. Cover, lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.
- Add the cabbage and flaked bacalao to the pot. Simmer for another 10 minutes. Turn off the heat. Stir in the cream. Season with salt and pepper.
- Serve the bacalao chowder hot with buttered toast.