recipe: a sopa de herança portuguesa

mãe feliz dia

I spend Mother’s Day with my mom and grandmother. That side of my family is of Portuguese descent and very close to my heart. Conversations with my grandmother can be all over the place these days and today we chatted about her growning up on the farm in Portugal. She kept coming back to what they grew, fading between broken Portuguese and English. I mentioned I would probably make a dinner based on our conversation which perked up her ears and as I explained the idea she mentioned it sounded like something she would have cooked in her youth with her mom. It centers around farm staples couve (collard) and batata (potato) as well as including bacalhau (cod, I used fresh, but typically they would have reconstituted the salt cod). The theory behind this dish isn’t far from the Caldo Verde I began making this past winter with the chicken and linguica being replaced by the cod and the focus being less on the greens and more on the balance of the dish.

The recipe could be varied and still retain it’s personality such as collard could be substituted for any dark leafy green and the cod could be any white fish. If you like things with a little kick to them adding piri piri (or other chili pepper) is a possibility if you are careful with not overpowering the more subtle flavor of the fish and potato and if you really insist on having a bit of meat in it the linguica would balance nice, but neither is necessary. I find the red onion and red bell pepper really add a nice touch of sweetness underneath as well as a nice dash of color, but you can use a yellow onion and green bell just as well.

One trick you could use to cut down the cooking time is to boil the potatoes in stock separate from the dish and once they soften, mash them and then add them back into the dish mashed. The only reason I don’t do this is because of the way the potatoes come apart during cooking gives it a nice chunk rustic feel that adding mashed potato to the stock just doesn’t seem to have. However, boiling them till they thicken the soup on their own takes much longer. You can also always make your own stock by doing a quick boil of all the parts of the pepper, onion, garlic and collard you have left over after prepping them and any parts of the fish you might not be using, just so nothing goes to waste. 20 minutes over a rolling boil with some whole pepper corns, dried rosemay and a bay leaf is a good start.

Red bell pepper
red onion
garlic cloves
cod fillets
celery salt
black pepper
paprika (sweet)
bay leaf
fresh rosemary
vegetable or fish stock
olive oil
large stock pot

Coarsely chop the pepper, onion and garlic cloves and add them to the stock pot.
Add a little bit of olive oil, celery salt and black pepper and sweat over medium heat.
Allow them to soften completely and the flavors to really begin to meld – don’t allow to really caramelize.
Coarsely chop the potato into cubes
Add the stock to the pot along with the potato cubes and bay leaves and season with paprika. Add additional black pepper if necessary.
Bring up to a boil and then back down to a simmer
Cut the cod fillets into pieces that will facilitate them flaking in the soup as they cook
Once the potato begins to completely break down add the cod fillets to the pot
Coarsely chop the collard leaves and add them to the pot along with the fresh rosemary and reseason as necessary with paprika and black pepper.
Make sure the fish and greens are fully incorporated in the soup and allow to cook until the greens are tender and the cod is able to be flaked easily with a fork.
Break the cod apart to allow the bite sized flakes to be disbursed throughout the soup
Serve in a bowl lined with a collard leaf along with a traditional Portuguese diner rolls

About thedoormouse

I am I. That’s all that i am. my little mousehole in cyberspace of fiction, recipes, sacrasm, op-ed on music, sports, and other notations both grand and tiny:
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