Bacalhau Espiritual, or Spiritual Cod, is one of the most traditional Portuguese styles of cooking cod. It combines Bacalhau baked in a delicious creamy bechamel white sauce with onions and carrots and a perfectly melted and crispy cheese topping. It is a great dish for at a gathering or festival and is always sure to impress.
1 lbs. bacalhau “salted cod” (If you can’t find this locally, you can always buy some easily here on Amazon)
4 cups water
3/4 cup carrots, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
1 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
1 cup shredded cheese (Any type of cheese will work)
1 cup fresh cream
1/2 cup flour
3 slices bread
1 cup hot milk for soaking the bread
1) Prepare the cod by soaking it in a bowl of cold water for at least 12 hours and up to 2 days, changing the water three times every 4 to 6 hours.
2) Once the cod has finished soaking, remove the skin and bones mince the fish finely.
3) Soak the pieces of bread in a bowl of hot milk and set aside.
4) Add the olive oil to a pan over medium heat and saute the garlic, onions, and 1/2 cup sliced carrots until they are softened.
5) Now break apart the soaked pieces of bread with your hands and add all of it to the pan.
5) Finally, add the fish to the pan and stir it well to combine. Turn off the heat.
6) Now prepare the white sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan and add the flour.
7) Cook, stirring constantly, then slowly add the milk and nutmeg, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Continue cooking over medium heat until the sauce thickens.
8) Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.
9) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix half of the white sauce well with the fish and spread the mixture in a baking dish.
10) Cover the dish with the remaining sauce, and finally with a remaining layer of the fresh cream. Then sprinkle the top of the dish completely with the cheese.
11) Bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top is melted and browned.
12) Let it cool for 5-10 minutes. Decorate with the rest of the sliced carrots and chopped cilantro. Serve.