Eggs, Portuguese-style

Recipe: Bacalhau à Brás from Aldea

August 29, 2014 Culture By
When it comes to cuisine of the Iberian Peninsula, Spain has been soaking up all the love. Adrià, Arzak, Berasategui — practically household names. But Portugal, too, is rich with comestibles, from acorn-eating pigs to port fit for kings. Stateside, chef George Mendes carries the torch of Portuguese cuisine at his Michelin-starred restaurant, Aldea, in New York City. Mendes, a first generation American with Portuguese parents, worked under some of the best chefs in Europe and America (including Berasategui) before opening Aldea in 2009. He shared this recipe and commentary for an avant-garde take on bacalhau à brás (salt cod with potatoes and eggs) from his forthcoming cookbook, My Portugal: Recipes and Stories.Jeremy Berger

Classically, bacalhau à brás is simply served in a mound. You can do that according to the variation below or try the refined version we serve at Aldea by layering the components in an eggshell. (You need one of those cool egg cutters to make the serving cups.) Be sure to use organic, free-range eggs, preferably from a local farm. To elevate the flavors and textures, I add a creamy espuma and dehydrated olives. Subtle, refined, and as satisfying as the original. Serves 4

1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives
1/2 cup whole milk
1 fillet Basic Salt Cod (2 ounces)
3 ounces flaked kosher salt
Freshly ground white pepper to taste
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves, chopped
1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fried shoestring potatoes

Special Equipment:
Siphon with two N20 charges
Egg cutter

Fried Shoestring Potatoes (for Topping Bacalhau à Brás:
Canola oil as needed
1 small Yukon gold potato

1. Fill a small saucepan with oil to a depth of 2 inches. Bring to 375°F over medium-high heat. 2. While the oil heats, peel the potato, then cut into scant 1/16-inch slices. Cut each slice into scant 1/16-inch shoestring batons. Rinse well with cold water; otherwise, excess starch will cause them to clump when frying. Dry well on paper towels. 3. Add the potatoes in batches to the hot oil to fry until golden brown and crisp, adjusting the heat to maintain the temperature and gently stirring to cook evenly. Drain on paper towels. Use immediately or store in an airtight container for up to two hours.

1. Preheat the oven to 200°F. 2. Place the olives on a parchment-lined half sheet pan and bake until totally dried and easy to crumble. Alternatively, use a dehydrator set at 145°F. Cool completely, then mince. You should have about 2 tablespoons. 3. In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer over medium heat. Add the salt cod fillet, remove from the heat, and let stand for 30 minutes. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve, pushing hard to strain as much liquid as possible into a clean saucepan. Reserve the cod for another use. 4. Season the milk with salt and pepper to taste and heat to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Immediately transfer to a siphon fitted with two N2O charges. 5. Use an egg cutter to carefully cut the tops off the eggs; reserve the shells and discard the tops (or see variation below). Pour the eggs into a small bowl and whisk well. 6. Carefully peel off and discard the thin membranes inside the shells. Rinse the shells with warm water and let stand in the carton to dry. 7. Heat a medium nonstick pan over low heat and coat with the oil. Add the shallot and garlic and sweat, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Add the flaked cod and cook, stirring, for 15 seconds, then add the eggs and a few grindings of pepper. 8. Cook, stirring constantly, until the eggs are just set but still wet. Fold in the parsley, lemon juice, and 2/3 of the olives and potatoes. 9. Use a small spoon to immediately and carefully divide the egg mixture among the 4 prepared eggshells. Siphon the milk mixture on top to come above the rim of the shell, then top with the remaining olives and potatoes. Serve immediately.

VARIATION: Omit the eggshell step. Siphon the salt cod milk onto serving plates and top with the egg mixture and garnishes.