Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The way to a man's heart (or anyone's for that matter)...

Food styling by Donna. Click image to enlarge.

Valentine's Menu (or any time you want to show extra love)

Bacalhua (salt cod w/ mashed potatoes)
Olive Tapenade
Steamed Green Beans
Toasted Baguette

Chambord Chocolate Fondue w/ Colossal Strawberries

Recommended Vinho:
Duas Quintas Red Wine from the Douro Region of Portugal, 2001

They say that there are as many recipes for Portuguese bacalhau as there are stars in the sky. Actually, I don't know if anyone really says that but it's true. One thing they all have in common is that salt cod is the focus of the dish. The word "bacalhau" literally translates to cod or codfish but it is also the name of a traditional Portuguese dish. Some versions of the dish are made with potatoes, others with vinegar, some have hard cooked eggs, others have olives. My family grew up eating a vinegar-based version our "Uncle Jimmy" (who wasn't really our uncle, just a family friend but that's another story) made which unfortunately we never got the recipe for. The recipe in this article is from "The Food of Portugal." I chose it because it sounded similar to a version I have had at Central Kitchen that I love. I added the tapenade as a topping because that's the way I had it there and it adds SO much flavor, texture and color to the dish. I know I'm mixing my cultural metaphors a bit since tapenade is from France but Provence is not too far from Portugal and well, this is America. We can do what we want. The beans also add great color and texture and make you feel better that you're eating a green vegetable. The dessert is a Lynne original which actually doesn't take much imagination - great chocolate, fresh fruit, a little liquor. How can you go wrong. And fondue is so fun. It's like making your own little dessert, one strawberry at a time.

Bacalhau a Conde da Guarda
(Salt Cod Count of Guarda)
Recipe from "The Food of Portugal," by Jean Anderson, available on Amazon and at times, on ebay (that's where I got my copy).
If you liked the Mac & Cheese recipe I posted, chances are you'll love this. It's major comfort food.

3/4 pound dried salt cod filet - no bones (Available at international fish markets like New Deal and even Whole Foods at times but get it from a fish market if you can. It's much better quality and nice to support your local fish market.)
4 medium potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 large yellow onions, coarsely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup half-and-half cream
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

How to:
1. Soak the salt cod in water in a covered dish in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Change the water several times (every 2 hours at first, then every 5 - 8 after that). After the 24 hours, drain the cod and pull the cod into shreds; set aside.
2. Boil the potatoes in enough water to cover, 35 to 40 minutes or until tender.
3. Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over moderately low heat, add the onions and garlic and sauté, stirring often, 5 to 6 minutes, just until onions are limp and glassy. Turn heat down low, cover the pan, and allow to cook 10 minutes; add the cod, mix well, then re-cover and cook over low heat 20 minutes, stirring now and then. Let cool a bit and puree in a food processor with a few pulses (doesn't need serious blending).
4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. As soon as the potatoes can be pierced easily with a fork, drain well, peel and quarter. Add the pepper and about 1/4 cup of the cream, then mash the potatoes well with a masher or electric mixer. Continue mashing and adding more cream until the potatoes are smooth, moist and fluffy.
5. Fold onion/cod puree into the mashed potatoes
6. Pour onion/cod/potato mixture into a 2-quart baking dish (9x9x2 or large deep casserole dish).
7. Sprinkle parmesan cheese over the top
8. Bake for about 30 minutes or until surface is touched with brown.

Olive Tapenade
Very easy recipe from the Balthazar Cookbook, available at Balthazar Restaurant in New York (one of my very favorites) and on Epicurious. Store the extra tapenade in the refrigerator and have as an appetizer with cheese and crackers.

1/2 pound black olives, pitted, drained of their liquid
4 anchovy fillets
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest
8 sprigs of thyme, leaves only
4 tablespoons olive oil

How to:
Place all the ingredients except the olive oil in the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse to blend. Add the oil and pulse a few more times to form a cohesive but still coarse paste.

String Beans

Simple - cut off the ends, steam for 10 minutes, done.

Toasted Baguette

Also simple - slice a fresh baguette into one-inch slices, brush olive oil on both sides. Bake at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes or until browned, flip over mid-way through. You can put these in the oven toward the end of the baking time of the bacalhua.

Load up a slice with some of the bacalhua and tapenade. De-lish. This would actually make great appetizers for a party.

The Grand Finale - Chambord Chocolate Fondue w/ Colossal Strawberries

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (Giardelli bittersweet chips are great. You can also chop up a nice piece of Valrhona)
About 1/2 cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 tablespoon Chambord (Grand Marnier would be great also)

How to:
1. In fondue pot or double boiler (glass bowl over a sauce pan with simmering water), heat the half and half and orange zest until simmering.
2. Pour in chips or cut pieces of chocolate; whisk until melted and well blended
3. Pour in Chambord, blend
4. Serve immediately with large, fresh strawberries or any other fruits you like (Also, you can dip the strawberries, refrigerate them and eat them later - mmm).

I really hope you enjoy this meal. My sister said it is in the Top 5 of all the meals I've ever made and she's tried pretty much everything I've cooked. You can feel the love in this dish. Truly.


Anonymous always bring tupperware said...

This week a family friend passed away. He was originally from Lisbon and he loved Portuguese food. He was a charming rogue with a twinkle in his eye and the patience to teach a GIRL how to prune fruit trees. Before enjoying this meal Lynne & I toasted all Portuguese people living and dead. Then we dug in! Somewhere along the line I abandoned my fork and used bread or a green bean to scoop up the bacalhau. Didn't want to miss any. And the strawberries, big as your fist, coated with chocolate - how could you go wrong? One of the top 5 meals she's made - ever. So thanks, Lynne, for another amazing repast and obrigado, Armindo, for everything you taught me. You would have loved this meal.

9:29 AM  
Blogger Lynne said...

De Nada, Donna. I'm doing what I can to carry on the traditions. Long live bacalhau, linguica and vinho verde!

12:40 PM  

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