Salt Cod & Potato Casserole

In a previous post, I reviewed one of the books that made me yearn for the world to stop for like, hum, a year (?) just so I could cook my days away: Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America by Maricel E. Presilla. The definitive, encyclopedic resource for latin food lovers, it engulfs you with 500+ recipes that are family friendly if labor intensive. (Since my review, it’s worth noting that Presilla has won the 2013 James Beard award as Best Cookbook of the Year.)

As promised, here’s the second recipe I cooked from the book, with mitigated yet moan-inducing success. I know, quite the contradiction. Presilla’s Brazilian Salt Cod and Potato Casserole, or Bacalhoada, takes at least 2 days to prepare, most of it soaking time, but is simple to make. If the recipe failed, the responsibility rests squarely with me. I had found the most beautiful salt cod at this little Greek grocery. The thick, snowy white fillets were newly dried, still pliant, and fleshy. The thickness alone required that I soak the fish longer than usual. In fact, Presilla recommends testing the fish before cooking it. But I didn’t. And as a result, it was too salty to enjoy unreservedly.

My neighbourhood grocery is out of salt cod and I was spoiled enough that I would rather wait for the next shipment. But you can rest assured that I will try my hand at this recipe again. Have a little patience, taste the soaked fish for saltiness, and you should be fine. Even bad, it’s that good.

A final note: Presilla says the recipe serves 6 people. I cut it in half and still fed 6… I would recommend you do the same. My 2 pounds of salt cod cost me $25, so let’s face it, I was never going to test a recipe with $50 of precious fish anyways.

Excerpted from:


  • 1. Start by soaking the cod, covered in cold water for 12 hours or more (test!), changing water 3 times or more. Discard water, replace with milk, cover with plastic wrap and chill 6 hours. Drain milk (reserve to make the mother of all chowders), rinse cod in cold water and reserve.
  • 2. In a large pot filled with boiling water, poach fish 3-4 minutes over medium heat. Avoid overcooking. Drain and let cool, then shred. It’s worth noting I kept the fillets whole as you can see in the pix. Show me a real cook who can’t stop herself from messing with recipes…
  • 3. Boil potatoes 10 minutes in salted water. Drain and reserve.
  • 4. Preheat oven to 350°F. Oil a deep round 12-in baking dish, earthenware if you have. Layer the ingredients in thirds starting with the potatoes, then the tomatoes, the onion, and the cod. Sprinkle each layer with oil and pepper (and salt if using). Repeat until you have used all. Pour remaining oil on top and bake 35 minutes or until vegetables are cooked through.