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Olive Oil-Poached Bacalhau and Golden Potatoes

Olive Oil-Poached Bacalhau and Golden Potatoes with Spring Onions and Olives
Ali Rosen

Olive Oil-Poached Bacalhau and Golden Potatoes with Spring Onions and Olives

Bacalhau, or bacalao, is a traditional Spanish/Portuguese dish consisting of salt cod. This humble dish is transformed into a complete meal with some sautéed Yukon Gold potatoes and spring onions. It may be a bit of a project, but a lot of it is just prep time, so don't be intimidated!


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For the bacalhau

  • 1/2 Pound kosher salt
  • 1/2 Pound coarse sea salt
  • 1 1/2 Pound 1 1/2-inch-thick whole cod fillet

For the potatoes

  • 16 small Yukon Gold potatoes
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, halved
  • 7 sprigs thyme
  • 4 sprigs rosemary, snipped into 2-inch pieces
  • 3 fresh California bay leaves, notches torn every 1/2 inch
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste

For the spring onions

  • 5 spring onions, thin outer purple layers removed
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to taste
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
  • 1 lemon wedge
  • 2 Tablespoons parsley leaves, torn
  • 1/2 Teaspoon lemon thyme leaves
  • 5 pitted Kalamata olives, quartered lengthwise
  • 1/2 Teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
  • Fleur de sel, to taste
  • Fig vinegar, to taste


For the bacalhau

Four days before serving, in a 6-inch-deep container, combine the kosher and sea salts. Cover the cod with the salt, leaving a 1/2-inch layer of salt on the bottom and patting the salt against the sides. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 48 hours. Occasionally tip out excess moisture that’s been released and evenly distribute the salt around the cod again.

Rinse the cod under cold running water and rinse out the container. Return the cod to the container and cover with cold water. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 48 hours, changing the water every 16 hours. Drain well, then cut the cod into 4 even portions when ready to cook.

For the potatoes

Put the potatoes in a saucepan just large enough to fit them in 1 layer. (They should have enough space to move a little.) Add enough olive oil to cover the potatoes, then add the garlic, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, and 2 teaspoons salt.

Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook until soft enough to mush if you press one with your finger, about 30 minutes. Keep adjusting the heat as you simmer to maintain tiny slow bubbles on the surface of the oil. (You don’t want the herbs to burn and get bitter; you want them to slowly infuse their flavors into the oil.) Use a slotted spoon to transfer the potatoes to a plate and let them cool a little while you cook the fish. Reserve the oil.

Put the 4 cod fillets smooth side up (the side that had the skin) in a sauté pan or saucepan just big enough to fit them in 1 layer. Pour the potato-cooking oil through a fine-mesh sieve into the pan. Discard the garlic and herbs. If there isn’t enough oil to cover the fish, add more.

Set the pan over medium-low heat and bring the oil to 130 degrees as measured by a frying thermometer. Cook, adjusting the heat to maintain the temperature, until the fish is just opaque throughout and about to flake apart, about 15 minutes.

When the fish is almost done cooking, gently smash each potato to flatten into thick disks. Heat a large sauté pan over high heat and coat the bottom with a little oil. Add the potatoes in a single layer and let them get brown and crisp, about 1 minute, then flip them to brown the other side. Drain on paper towels.

For the spring onions

After browning the potatoes, wipe out the skillet. Cut the spring onions lengthwise in quarters, then crosswise into ¼-inch-thick slices. Heat the butter and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat until the butter foams and bubbles.

Add the onions and a generous pinch of kosher salt. Cook, stirring and scraping so you don’t get any color on the onions, until they’re almost translucent but still have a little crunch, about 3 minutes. (They should still have their rounded shape.) Squirt some lemon juice over the onions, then fold in the parsley, thyme, olives, smoked paprika, and remaining olive oil.

Arrange the potatoes and cod on serving plates and spoon the onion mixture on top of the cod. Sprinkle fleur de sel all over and drizzle with a little fig vinegar and oil to taste.