They say there are 365 ways to cook cod in Portugal. Here’s one of them, a recipe for cod in Paleo clam sauce.
They say there are 365 recipes to cook cod in Portugal, one for every day of the year. During my trip to Lisbon, I got to try a handful, and there’s no doubt this Bulhão Pato cod served with a paleo clam sauce simmered to perfection by the chef of the Four Seasons in Lisbon was one of the most remarkable.
The name for this popular Bulhão Pato clam sauce comes from a famous Portuguese poet, Raimundo de Bulhão Pato, who was fond of this clam sauce and often mentioned it in his writing.
This version of cod served with a paleo clam sauce differs a little from the original and aims to create a healthy version of the dish which is paleo, gluten free, dairy free and compliant to the requirements of the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP).
When I interviewed the Executive Chef of the Four Seasons Lisbon, Pascal Meynard, I saw him lit with the same passion for food, travel and adventure that’s a common trait in all the other chefs I had the honor to meet around the world. “I love to travel and learn about new cultures, cooking techniques, dishes and ingredients”, he told me to start off our interview, making his biggest passions crystal from the very beginning.
Chef Pascal started his career studying and working at a Michelin star restaurant in France, where he’s from. After that, he worked in several Four Seasons across the globe: from Montreal, Canada to Milan, Geneva and London. He got to feed the guests of some Michelin Star restaurants in France, and he even ventured to the rugged island of Tasmania, where he consulted for the opening of a specialty seafood restaurant in Hobart.
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With such an eclectic background, how could I not ask him the question I ask every Chef I meet: “What’s the one ingredient you’d take with you from the countries you visited?”
Chef Pascal doesn’t need to think twice: “Well, I take lobster from Canada, small milk lamb from Tasmania and risotto from Milan. From London instead I’d like to take with me the British passion for fusion cuisine, as well as the amazing fresh food and great fish markets”.
Only when it’s time to select French ingredients Chef Pascal has a hard time making a choice. Not only is France home for him, but also the place where he learned to make magic in the kitchen at Alain Ducasse’s School and in Paris.
“French food is all amazing – he tells me – but if I can only pick one thing, I would say black truffle, duck and foie gras”. “…Wait, weren’t those three Chef?!” ;)
Portuguese food quickly became a big favorite too for Chef Pascal. Being an avid fish lover, from the kitchen of the Four Seasons in Lisbon, he can express all of his inventiveness cooking with the immeasurable seafood choices that the ocean has to offer.
“I love the amazing fresh, local fish you can find here in Lisbon. I get to be so creative combining the Portuguese gastronomic heritage and the local fish and seafood with the expertise and cooking techniques I learned throughout my career”.
This is exactly how his signature dish “Bulhão Pato Cod” (confit cod with a paleo clam sauce) was born. And in today’s recipe, we got to redesign it together in a healthier way, avoiding dairy and soy lecithin (which is normally used to thicken the clam sauce).
In this dish Chef Pascal mixed a bit of Portugal (the clam sauce called “Bulhão Pato”) with a typical French technique to make cod “confit” (a French word that means “preserved”, used when meats of fish are cooked in fat at low temperatures until tender).
I had a blast watching Chef Pascal in action and learning from him in the spotless kitchen of the Four Seasons Lisbon… and can you imagine my excitement when I found a custom made gluten and dairy free cake delivered from his team to my room?!
Anyways… it’s not time for dessert now (yet); so check out the recipe for this gourmet Cod Confit with Paleo Clam Sauce. It’s not every day that you get to peak into a Michelin Star Chef’s kitchen and cook like one while keeping it healthy!!
NOTE: Some of the ingredients used in this recipe are a bit unusual (like the pickled pearl onions, goose barnacle, and the Salicornia you see on the side). Don’t get discouraged and use the replacements that Chef Pascal suggested. The dish will be equally delicious!
Cod Confit In Paleo Clam Sauce (GF, DF, AIP)Ambra Torelli
For the Cod Fish Confit:
- 4 Cod Fish Fillets of 140 gr each
- 1 lt Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 3 Garlic Cloves
- 5 Coriander Stems chopped
- *15 Coriander Seeds *NON AIP. Skip this ingredient if you are on the AIP
- Sea Salt to taste
For the Paleo Clam Sauce:
- 20 gr Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 500 gr Clams
- 250 gr Razor Clams
- 150 ml White Wine alcohol will evaporate while cooking
- 150 gr Goose Barnacles (you can find them at the fresh fish market OR replace them with mussels
- 5 Garlic Cloves thinly sliced
- 100 gr Coriander chopped
- 1 Fresh Lemon juiced
- 10 Pickled Pearl Onions you can find them in the pickle isle of your grocery store, OR replace them with 1 tbsp of lemon zest to cut the fattiness of the sauce
- 2 sprigs of Salicornia OR Sea Beans you can find them in a specialty grocery store
For the Cod Fish Confit:
- Add 1 lt of extra virgin olive oil in a pot, together with the bay leaves, garlic cloves, coriander stems and seeds. Bring the temperature to 80 C (make sure the oil does not fry) and add the 4 portions of cod fish.
- Let the fish cook for approximately 7 minutes (or, if you have a kitchen thermometer, until the interior temperature of the fish has reached 45 C).
- Remove the fish fillets from pot, and let it rest for a few minutes.
For the Paleo Clam Sauce:
- In a medium sized sauce pot, add the olive oil and sliced garlic, and cook over medium heat.
- When the garlic starts to sizzle, add in the clams, and the chopped coriander.
- Add in some white wine, wait a few minutes until the alcohol evaporates, and put the lid on top.
- When the clams start to open (this should take about 3 minutes, depending on how fresh the clams are and if the pot is hot or not minutes), strain the liquid for the paleo clam sauce and set the clams aside.
- Repeat the same procedure for the razor clams. While it is possible to cook all the clams together at the same time, the Chef would not recommend it because different types of bivalves open at different times so one would end up over cooked.
- Combine the sauces obtained from straining the razor clams and the clams, add lemon juice to taste and a few drops of olive oil and process with a hand blender mixer. This will help your paleo clam sauce thicken and give it a nice texture and volume.
- Place the cod confit in the middle of a plate, scoop the paleo clam sauce around it and top it with the goose barnacles, pickled beet pearl onions and sea sprouts.
Like always, if you like this recipe, save it on your favorite Pinterest board and share with your friends on Facebook, so that it will be easier for you to find it when it’s time to cook!
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Born and raised in Italy, Ambra is a healthy recipe developer, food and travel writer with a passion for healthy living and wellness. She is the founder of 'Little Bites of Beauty" and the author of the cookbooks "Healthy Italian Desserts Made Simple" and "The AIP Italian Cookbook". She shares her daily food & travel adventures on her Instagram @LittleBitesofBeauty