Pureed salt cod and potatoes
This classic French bistro dish is comfort food at its best. And although preparing it used to be a major production due to the need to desalt the cod by soaking it for at least 24 hours, modern shortcuts can allow you to prepare a fine brandade easily and quickly.
Traditionalists may prefer to use dry salt cod. But you can just as well substitute desalted frozen salt cod or fresh cod for this recipe. And instead of pureeing the fish and potatoes with a mortar and pestle, as was done in the old days, you can simply use a blender.
For the potatoes, choose a variety that breaks up when boiled, the kind you would use for mashed potatoes. And the dish will be best if you use a high-quality extra-virgin olive oil — first cold pressed is best. If you use fresh cod, add a little sea salt to the dish before the final blending to achieve a more authentic flavor.
Brandade is traditionally served with toast on the side. The quantities below will serve 2-3 as a main course and 4-6 as a starter. For a larger crowd, double the recipe.
1 pound (500 g) salt cod or fresh cod
1 pound (500 g) potatoes
1/2 cup (1 deciliter) milk
1/2 cup (1 deciliter) extra virgin olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
sea salt or table salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper
parsley for garnish
If using dried salt cod, skip to the bottom of the recipe for instructions on desalting. If using frozen desalted cod, allow the fish to defrost before beginning. If using fresh cod, buy fillets with the skin still attached if possible.
Place the desalted fish, skin still on, in a pot large enough to accommodate it in one layer. Add water to just cover the fish. Bring to a boil. Immediately turn off the heat and cover the pot. Allow to poach in the hot water for 15 minutes. Drain and allow to cool slightly.
While the fish is poaching, peel the potatoes and cut into smaller pieces for quicker cooking. Place in a pot of cold water, bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are very tender, 20-30 minutes. Drain.
When the fish is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and break the flesh into small pieces. Be very careful to remove any bones. Set aside.
Place the cooked potatoes in a bowl if you have a hand-held blender or in the jar of a counter-top blender. Add the milk and pulse to mix thoroughly. Using a garlic press, add the garlic to the potatoes and pulse again.
Now add the cod and olive oil. Pulse briefly — you want the purée to be well blended, but not too thoroughly, in order to retain some of the texture of the fish. If some olive oil remains after brief pulsing, stir it in with a spoon.
Transfer the purée to a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Taste. Add salt as necessary, and grind in some black pepper. Taste again and adjust.
When ready to serve, reheat very gently. Serve in shallow bowls as a main course, or in small soufflé cups or glasses as a starter. Decorate with a little parsley. Serve with toasted white bread, French country bread or baguette on the side, accompanied by a crisp white or rosé. Serves 2-3 as a main dish, 4-6 as a starter.
To desalt dried salt cod, cut the fish into pieces. Place in a colander. Place the colander in a large pot. Fill the pot with cold water. Allow the cod to soak for 24 hours. During this time, you will need to change the water twice. Each time, remove the colander, discard the salty water from the pot, rinse the fish under cold running water, place the colander back in the pot, and immerse the fish in fresh cold water.