The New York Times recently had an interesting article on the importance of salted cod to Portuguese Christmas dinners:
“Bacalhau, as the fish is called here, is to Christmas Eve in Portugal what turkey is to Thanksgiving in America. Treasured since the 16th century, when Portuguese fishermen first brought it back from, it bore the nickname fiel amigo — faithful friend. Its correct preparation is a source of pride, a sign of respect for family values."
"Every Portuguese, it seems, likes to boast that there are 1,000 recipes for bacalhau and that the people here eat more of it than do those anywhere else in the world.”
If you want to try celebrating this Christmas the Portuguese way, we recommend this traditional recipe from Cuisines of Portuguese Encounters, Expanded Edition. As the author Cherie Hamilton says about it:
Codfish prepared for the consoada (the traditional Christmas Eve dinner) is an alternative to the codfish cooks with todos (literally "all"), which is traditionally served for supper on December 25. This particular recipe, besides being very enticing, appeals to those who like their codfish served in large pieces. In some homes it is served as a second course, preceded by boiled crabs, shrimp, and lobster; and followed by roast turkey or Roast Suckling Pig (page 44) and the trimmings.
2 pounds thick salt cod fillets
6 medium onions, peeled
6 carrots, peeled
2 pounds medium white potatoes, peeled
3 pounds collard greens, stems removed
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup olive oil
8 cloves garlic, smashed
6 to 8 hard-boiled eggs (1 per person)
Soak the salt cold fillets in cold water to cover for 24 hours int he refrigerator, changing the water frequently.
Drain the salt cold and place in a large pot with the onions, carrots, potatoes, greens, and salt. Cook over medium heat until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.
Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan and saute the garlic cloves until lightly golden. Keep warm.
Arrange the codfish, onions, carrots, potatoes, collards, and eggs on a large platter or several platters. Serve the warm olive oil with garlic in a bowl on the side to drizzle over the fish and vegetables.
Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.