This Baked Cod in Cheese Sauce is a sponsored post in partnership with the Norwegian Seafood Council. However, all opinions are mine alone.
Baked Cod in Cheese Sauce is a 30-minute dish made from cod fish fillets smothered in a creamy cheese sauce. It’s served with a colorful vegetable salsa, mixing old and new holiday traditions!
Christmas is coming up just a few days from now! The season’s blend of food, family gatherings, and holiday traditions brings eager anticipation.
Make this Baked Cod in Cheese Sauce a delicious part of your holiday festivities.
I find this season the perfect time to share with the new generation, our children, the foods that each of us treasures and which celebrate our cultures and identities.
For me, this Baked Cod with Cheese Sauce (also known as bacalhau quatro queijos) brings back precious memories of my mom’s holiday table back in Brazil…
… while the beautiful salsa that tops it incorporates my family’s American, adopted Texan traditions, and gives a special Christmassy touch to the dish.
It is a Portuguese tradition to have at least one cod fish dish at the dinner table on Christmas Eve, a tradition that has been continued by some of their descendants in Brazil. One of the most popular Portuguese cod dishes is bacalhau com natas (cod with cream), which has similarities to the Brazilian bacalhau quatro queijos.
The classic bacalhau quatro queijos is made with dried salted cod that is first put to soak (i.e. de-salt) in water and then to cook in boiling water… just like our Codfish Shepherd’s Pie (Bacalhau a Zé do Pipo). Then, it is shredded, mixed with a Mornay sauce (bechamel with cheeses), and baked in a glass baking dish.
Our Baked Cod in Cheese Sauce recipe is an adaptation of that traditional Brazilian dish, incorporating ingredients from our current home.
To start off, we prepared the dish using whole salted cod from Norway, which happens to be the second largest exporter of seafood in the world.
Norway shares its sustainable wild-caught and ocean-farmed seafood with over 150 countries, including the United States.
Cod, also known as bacalao in Spanish or baccalà in Italian, is also a great source of vitamin D and calcium, and makes an affordable and much quicker-to-prepare holiday dish than ham or turkey.
I don’t know about you, but saving both money and time during this time of the year are real pluses for me!
As for the sauce, I used two cheeses popular in Brazil (mozzarella and Parmesan) and two that are popular in America (white and yellow cheddar).
Instead of using a glass baking dish, I prefer a cast-iron skillet in which I can pan-fry the fish and also bake it, using a single pan for both tasks. 😉
Right before serving, our Baked Cod with Cheese Sauce is topped with a bright salsa made with fresh vegetables and herbs. Yeehaw, Texas!
Brazilians usually serve the dish with rice, boiled potatoes, or shoestring potatoes, although a hard-crusted bread or a fresh salad would be also be just dandy as accompaniments.
If you enjoy white wine, this is THE DISH to have with it! A Pinot Grigio makes a great pairing.
HOW TO MAKE BAKED COD IN CHEESE SAUCE
This is one of those easy recipes.
Preheat the conventional broiler, positioning the broiler rack approximately 6 inches from the source of heat.
1. Pan-Fry Cod Fillets
To cook cod fillets, pat dry the cod fillets very well with paper towel; otherwise they will stick to the pan.
Season both sides with salt, pepper, and paprika, rubbing well.
Dredge in flour if desired, shaking off excess. Heat a 10-inch cast iron skillet over high heat.
When the pan is hot, add 2-3 tbsp oil and tilt the pan to distribute evenly. Lower heat to medium, add cod fillets and sear for 2-3 minutes.
If necessary, add remaining oil. Then flip the cod fillets and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
2. Prepare Mornay Sauce or Cheese Sauce
To prepare mornay sauce, melt the butter over medium heat in a saucepan.
Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until obtaining a pale yellow roux (about 1 minute). Don’t let the roux brown!
Slowly whisk in the milk, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens (about 6-7 minutes).
Season with the salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Whisk in the cheeses until melted. If necessary, thin the sauce with a little milk.
Spoon sauce over the cod. Sprinkle on 1/2 cup yellow cheddar cheese.
3. Bake/Broil Cod Fillets
Broil for about 3-5 minutes, or until cheese melts and turns golden brown. Remove from the oven, top with salsa, and serve immediately.
Enjoy while hot, accompanied by rice, roasted or boiled potatoes, fresh salad, or steamed vegetables.
What’s a Mornay Sauce (popularly known as cheese sauce)?
Mornay sauce derives from the French mother sauce béchamel, a milk-based sauce thickened with a white or blond roux (a mixture of butter and flour).
Traditionally, Gruyère cheese is added to béchamel, transforming it into Mornay sauce. But different variants use other types of cheeses or blends.
Mac and cheese, for example, uses cheddar. Our Baked Cod in Cheese Sauce uses a blend of 4 cheeses.
Making Ahead and Storing Mornay Sauce
You can make Mornay in advance, let it cool, and cover surface with plastic wrap or wax paper to prevent a skin from forming over the sauce.
Then either refrigerate for up to 4 days, or store in the freezer for at most just a few days in order to prevent it from picking up the odor from other foods.
Before use it, make sure to defrost in the refrigerator and then reheat over low heat in a saucepan, whisking constantly. Please be aware that sauce components may separate a little bit.
If too thick, use a little bit of milk to thin it out.
Well, enjoy our Baked Cod in Cheese Sauce and make wonderful memories with your family!
P.S.: Don’t forget to watch our video recipe (English and Portuguese):
PIN & ENJOY!
Quick Baked Cod in Cheese Sauce
- 6 cod fillets (1/2-inch thick)
- salt (a pinch if cod is non-salted; none if cold is salted)
- ground black pepper (a pinch)
- paprika (a pinch)
- 4-5 tbsp grapeseed or canola oil divided
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- 4 1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 3 cups warmed milk ( 2% or whole)
- ground nutmeg a pinch (optional)
- 2 1/2 cups blend of shredded cheeses (Mozzarella, Parmesan, white and yellow cheddar) Reserve 1/2 cup yellow cheddar to sprinkle over sauce
- 6 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 8 olives (green and/or black)
- 1/2 jalapeno, sliced
- parsley or chives, chopped
- If using salted cod, wash the fillets to remove excess salt. Then, soak fillets in plain water (enough to cover) for 24-48 hours in the fridge. Change the water every 8 hours. Remove skin and de-bone fillets. If using non-salted cod, skip this step.
- Preheat the conventional broiler, positioning the broiler rack approximately 6 inches from the source of heat.
- Pan-Fry Cod Fillets: pat dry the cod fillets with paper towel very well; otherwise they'll stick to the pan. Season both sides with salt, pepper, and paprika, rubbing well. If desired, dredge in a little flour and shake to remove excess.
- Heat a 10-inch cast iron skillet over high heat. Once pan is hot, add 2-3 tbsp oil and tilt pan to distribute oil. Add the cod fillets seasoned side down and sear for 2-3 minutes. Cook them in batches so as to not overcrowd pan.
- If necessary, add remaining oil. Then flip the cod fillets and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
- Prepare Mornay Sauce or Cheese Sauce: melt the butter over medium heat in a saucepan.
- Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until obtaining a pale yellow roux (about 1 minute). Don't let the roux brown!
- Slowly whisk in the milk, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens (about 6-7 minutes).
- Season with the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Whisk in 2 cups cheeses until melted. If necessary, thin the sauce with a little milk..
- Pour sauce over fish fillets. Sprinkle on 1/2 cup yellow cheddar cheese.
- Broil the dish in the cast-iron skillet for about 3-5 minutes, or until cheese melts and turns golden brown. Remove from the oven, top with salsa, and serve immediately.
- NOTE: For the salsa, simply mix tomatoes, olives, jalapeno, and herbs together in a bowl. Drizzle in a little bit of olive oil and mix in a little bit of white wine vinegar if desired.
- Accompaniments: rice, roasted or boiled potatoes, fresh salad, or steamed vegetables.
- Wine pairing: Pinot Grigio.
- Love cod? Try our comforting Codfish Shepherd's Pie.