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A taste of Brazil: Recipes for codfish cakes, caipirinha

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A favourite appetizer found in Rio de Janeiro is bolinhos de bacalhau, or codfish cakes, with bars, street stalls and markets all offering their version.

The lightly fried cakes or croquettes are typically made from a mixture of bacalhau (the Portuguese word for dried salted codfish), potatoes, eggs, onion and parsley or cilantro. They’re crispy on the outside with a creamy interior and are delicious with caipirinha, Brazil’s national cocktail, or a cold beer.

You can also make them at home. This recipe must be started the day before as the dried salted codfish needs to be soaked overnight. Change the water several times. Depending on how much salt is eliminated through this process, you may not need to add any extra salt to the cod cake mixture, says chef Mario Cassini.

He notes that salted codfish is also available boneless.

Here is his recipe for the popular finger food along with one for caipirinha to drink with it. “Saude” (cheers)!

BOLINHOS DE BACALHAU (Codfish Cakes)

500 g (1 lb) salted codfish

1 sweet or other type of onion, chopped

30 ml (2 tbsp) olive oil, for sauteing onions

2 large white potatoes, peeled and cubed (about 300 g/10 oz)

1 bay leaf

1 egg, separated

125 ml (1/2 cup) chopped parsley or cilantro

Salt, to taste

500 ml (2 cups) vegetable oil, for frying (approx)

Fresh limes and hot sauce, for serving

Soak salted codfish overnight, changing the water at least 3 times. Drain, remove any bones and skin, and cut in small chunks.

In a skillet, heat olive oil; saute onion until soft and set aside. (This can be done ahead.)

In a medium pot, place potatoes and cover with water. Add bay leaf. Bring water to a simmer and cook potatoes until soft. Add codfish pieces and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Strain potatoes and codfish, discarding water and bay leaf.

In a large bowl, mash together potatoes and codfish until well mixed. Mix in sauteed onion. Add egg yolk and continue to mix. Beat egg white until foamy and fold into mixture. Add parsley and mix well. Taste and add salt, if needed.

Refrigerate codfish cake mixture for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

Just before frying, remove cod cake mixture from fridge. If mixture is too moist, cod cakes may fall apart or not brown properly when frying. Add a bit of flour to absorb excess moisture and mix well. Use 2 tablespoons to shape cod cake mixture into quenelles (egg shape with slightly rounded points) or croquettes: scoop some of the mixture onto a spoon, then gently press scooped mixture with bowl of second spoon to compress, and smooth edges.

Meanwhile, preheat vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a skillet or pot deep enough so that oil covers cod cakes. Using a large spoon, carefully lower cod cakes into oil. Do not overcrowd pot. Fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes (depending on the temperature of the oil). Using a slotted spoon, carefully remove cod cakes from oil, letting oil drip off. Place on paper towel to absorb excess oil.

Serve with fresh limes and hot sauce.

Makes 12 to 15 cod cakes (depending on size).

Source: Chef Mario Cassini, Global Culinary Concepts.

CAIPIRINHA

This drink is regarded as Brazil’s national cocktail. Its base is a clear spirit known as cachaca that is distilled from fresh sugarcane juice. Some imbibers equate the drink to a mojito without the mint.

1 lime

10 ml (2 tsp) granulated sugar, or to taste

60 ml (2 oz) cachaca

Crushed or chopped ice

Lime slices, for garnish

Slice a couple of rounds from the lime to garnish the glass. Chop remainder.

To a shaker, add chopped lime and sugar. Mash together with a muddler or wooden spoon. Add cachaca and ice and shake until well mixed. Pour into an old-fashioned glass. Add more ice and garnish glass with lime rounds.

Makes 1 serving.

Source: Chef Mario Cassini, Global Culinary Concepts.

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