Bolinho de Bacalhau is the granddaddy of bar foods served in boutequins all over Brazil. An exquisite deep-fried morsel that usually comes in a basket, cod fritters come in many variations. What makes this particular recipe so delicious and different are the egg whites mixed into the batter, which provide the fritters with a delicate, airy texture.
When buying salt cod, try to find a piece that looks very meaty. Allow for a bit of planning for this recipe since you need to soak the cod for at least 24 hours, preferably 2-3 days.
I often serve this as an hors d’oeurve with tartar sauce, or as a main course with a green salad on the side.
Adapted from "The Brazilian Kitchen" by Leticia Moreinos Schwartz.
Trim away all the dark parts around the belly and tail of the cod, then rinse it in cold water and place in a large container. Fill it with about 2 ½ gallons cold water, and refrigerate for 2-3 days. Change the water at least 3 times per day, and each time you change the water, rinse the container as well.
Place the cod in a medium saucepan. Cover with the milk and gently bring it to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered, until it becomes opaque, 5-7 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the cod and break the meat with your hand into big chunks, then shred the meat by either chopping it with a chef’s knife or pulsing it through a food processor. You should end up with about ½ pound (1 ½ cups) of shredded fish. Place the cod in an airtight plastic container and refrigerate until ready to use (the cooked cod will keep for up to 6 days).
Peel the potato and cut it into chunks. Place the potato in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, cover with cold water, and add a pinch of salt. Cover the pan, bring the water to a boil, and then reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the potato is fork tender, 8-10 minutes. Drain in a colander and, while still hot, pass the potato through a rice or food mill.
In a large bowl, mix the shredded cod, mashed potato, onion, garlic, parsley, egg yolks, olive oil, and cayenne. Add the salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste.
In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment to beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Carefully fold the egg whites into the cod-potato mixture with a rubber spatula. You won’t be able to shape the fritter with your hands since the dough is too light so you will need to spoon the batter directly into the hot oil.
Pour the vegetable oil into a heavy-bottomed pot and heat the oil to 350 degrees, as measured with a deep-fat thermometer. If you don’t have a thermometer, drip a little batter into the oil — when you hear a sizzling sound and see the batter turning golden brown, the oil is ready. Drop a tablespoonful of batter into the oil and add only as many as will fit without touching. Turn occasionally with a long slotted spoon, making sure all sides are browned evenly, 2-3 minutes.
Remove each fritter from the oil and place it onto a baking sheet lined with a double layer of paper towels to absorb any extra oil. Continue working in batches until all the fritters are cooked — keep the finished batches in a warm oven until serving. Serve immediately. These can be reheated in a 300 degree oven for 5-10 minutes.