This dish comes from a very specialized cookbook I bought last time I was in Brazil: 1000 recipes for salt cod. I know, amazing!
I was excited when I bought the book and remain so. I don’t cook many of those recipes as they are a bit naughty and decadent, full of rich sauces with cream, butter, eggs, sometimes deep fried and so on. I try to hold back on this type of cooking for a special treat. Well, Easter weekend seemed the perfect occasion to splurge.
Croquete de bacalhau is a typical fried finger food (generically called salgadinhos in Portuguese) that you might find in Brazilian bakeries. Actually it is just one of many. Others come with meat, fish fresh, palm hearts, potatoes or cheese—and sometimes in combinations of these ingredients. The bakeries in Rio de Janeiro are especially fun to visit since you can try several kinds of salgadinho and order perfectly ripe tropical fruit juice, squeezed to order right in front of you, made from things like mango, papaya, various citrus, or pineapple, all at once, for almost nothing. That is worth doing, and often!
I think that I must have been channeling Rio when I made these the other day. Steven and I have had such marvelous trips there. Perhaps the springtime weather we’ve lately been enjoying is stimulating my wanderlust and taste buds.
The book calls for potato in the dough, but we didn’t have any, so I used cassava root instead. (Isn’t it weird we had cassava root at home but no potatoes?) So you can use potato or cassava (I bought mine peeled and frozen at a little market in the Mission. It is pretty common in stores that sell a lot of Caribbean or Latino foods, so if you have trouble finding it, you might try there.)
salt codfish croquettes AKA croquete de bacalhau
1 cup of tomato sauce (I made my own—see below. Prepared would work, too.)
1½ cups salt cod
3 tbsp chopped onion
3 tbsp chopped parsley
Black pepper to taste
1 cup mashed cooked cassava
1 cup flour
2 eggs, beaten and slightly salted
1½ cups fine bread crumbs
Canola and olive oil for frying
For tomato sauce:
5 fresh tomatoes
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
3 tbsp olive oil
pinch dried oregano and basil
salt and pepper to taste
To prepare the tomato sauce:
Cut woody tips off tomatoes then slice them in half. Add a couple of tablespoons of water to a pan. Place tomato halves in, cover and let cook until skins begin to curl. Remove from heat. With the help of tongs, remove peels and discard them. Transfer tomatoes to a bowl, wipe pan off. Simply make sauce by sautéing garlic in olive oil, add tomato and remaining ingredients. Raise temperature to boil then lower heat to simmer, partially covered for about 20 minutes.
To prepare croquettes:
Soak salt codfish over night, changing water about 3 times to remove salt.
Bring a pot of fresh water to a boil. Drop cod fish in it. Immediately remove from heat and let poach for about 10 minutes. Remove fish from cooking water and let cool. Remove skin, bones if any, then cut into small chunks. Set aside.
Sauté onion in olive oil until translucent, then add codfish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for a couple of minutes longer. Add tomato sauce. Stir and bring to boil then reduce to simmer. Adjust flavors. It should be slightly salty. Add mashed cassava, flour and parsley. Mix to incorporate. It will turn into thick dough. Remove from heat and let cool until easily handled.
Split dough into two equal pieces. Wet your hands with olive oil and roll each piece into a ¾ inch diameter tube or log. Cut pieces and roughly shape them into coquettes.
Roll each croquette in breadcrumbs, then in egg wash, and back again in breadcrumbs. Repeat process with remaining croquettes.
Fill a small cooking pan (8 inch in diameter) with about an inch of oil. Use about 3 parts canola to 1 part olive oil. Heat oil on high. Drop 3 to 4 croquettes in at a time and fry until golden brown. Remove to a paper towel to drain. Repeat process with remaining. Serve warm with hot sauce. Enjoy your salgadinhos!