I have to admit, Portugal was not the top on my list of places to visit until one of my best friends moved there and invited us to come. Let me tell you, I’m glad I had a reason to explore this beautiful country and my only regret is that we didn’t stay long enough. Although it did not have the old world feel like Madrid, it doesn’t lack in history and scenery. I would recommend renting a car/booking a tour and venturing out of Lisbon, where you can visit the palaces located on the mountains of Sintra, Quinta de Regalaria shown below. Besides the several palaces and castles, Sintra is also home to Cabo da Roca, the most western cape of Europe overlooking the Atlantic ocean. With the majestic mountains and breathtaking views of the coastline, the only thing missing was a nice bottle of wine to watch the sunset. Another highlight in Lisbon is the Jeronimos Monastery, which somewhat started my obsession with church architecture (this was before going to Barcelona and seeing the Sagrada Familia). We must’ve spent 1-2 hours just absorbing the details and structure of this church built in the 1700s. Just a short walk from the monastery lies the most famous bakery in Portugal, Pasteis de Belem, known for their flaky egg tarts. This bakery still uses the same recipe from the 1800s to create these little pockets of goodness, sweet and rich, best with coffee, and worth every single calorie. So good, I brought 9 boxes home to share with curious mouths.
Being by the coast, seafood is plentiful with one of the most popular being Bacalao, which is Portuguese cod dried and preserved in salt. You’ll note a pattern when seeing Bacalao on the menu, they usually go hand in hand with sliced potatoes and eggs. I remember having this amazing meal by the boardwalk at D’Bacalhau (thank you to the staff who took time to explain everything from the food to local places to check out), which we basically each ordered a different style of cod. This was also the first time trying Tawny Port wine, perfect sweet ending but be careful, with a ABV of 20%, you might not need a 2nd glass.
1 lb of (Bacalhau) salted cod (soaked overnight, I changed the water 3 times)
2 Large Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
1/2 Cup of pitted black olives, sliced or whole
1 large sweet Vidalia onion, sliced into 1/4″ pieces
1 bay leaf
4 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp of butter
1/2 cup half and half (or cream)
1 tsp smoked paprika or pimenton
pepper to taste
4 Hard boiled eggs, sliced
1/4 cup parsley
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Start by caramelizing onions- add 2 tbsp of olive oil and 2 tbsp of butter to a medium size pan on low-medium heat. Add onions and the bay leaf, frequently stirring to even out the cooking method, it should caramelize in about 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of water to a boil, add potatoes and cook until tender and easy to mash. When tender, drain out the water, add the half and half and 2 tbsp of butter, and mash until smooth. Spread this on the bottom of a medium size baking dish 13×9″ or smaller. While the potatoes are cooking, you can start on the Bacalao. Drain all the water and shred the pieces of Bacalao (I find it easier to cut the Bacalao to 2″ pieces and manually shred by hand). Heat up 2 tbsp of olive oil on medium heat, add the Bacalao, pepper, paprika or pimenton, cook for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and evenly distribute on top of mashed potatoes. Top with caramelized onions. Bake for 25 minutes covered. Remove from oven and top with the sliced hardboiled eggs, olives, and parsley.