Fans of comfort food, of warm-and-creamy appetizers, of dips and spreads and cheeses: you are going to love me for this. Seafood lovers will swoon. Southerners raised on crab dip and mavens of New York deli whitefish salad, meet your new favorite recipe.
Brandade de morue is a lush, heady mixture of salted cod, garlic, shallots, cream, and olive oil, warmed through and relaxed into a creamy, savory, deeply satisfying spread. Though it’s often eaten as a main course with a crisp salad in its native southern France, I like brandade’s cozy richness in smaller, special portions of hors d’oeuvre, or as a simple, family-style first course before a flavorful winter soup.
A relic of Old World preservation and a staple of many Southern European pantries, you’ll find salted cod (and a version of brandade) in France, Italy, Spain and Greece. (Depending on your community, it might be easiest to find salt cod in an Italian specialty market, where it’s labeled as baccalà.) You’ll have to start a few days ahead of serving in order to soak the cod out of its salt; it’s no real effort, that part, and by the second time you make brandade the soaking will feel less like a chore and more like an anticipatory prelude to the creamy deliciousness ahead. Swoon.
adapted from Jody Adams’ In the Hands of A Chef
- 1 lb salt cod, preferably boneless
- 1 medium baking potato (Idaho or Russet, about 6 oz)
- 5 Tbsp olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- 4 shallots, minced
- 1 C heavy cream
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1-2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
Two days ahead, rinse the salt cod of any loose salt. Place in a casserole with enough water or milk (or a combination) to cover. Refrigerate, changing the liquid at least twice a day, to rehydrate the fish and reduce the saltiness. (It should still be a bit salty when done.)
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Bake the potato directly on the rack, about 55 minutes. Cut the potato in half, scooping out the insides and put through a ricer, or mash. Set aside.
Drain and rinse the salt cod. Remove any skin or bones. Put in a medium pot, covered with cold salted water and bring to a boil. Simmer about 10 minutes until the fish begins to flake (try not to overcook or the cod will go rubbery). Let it cool in the pot.
In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil, shallots and garlic until lightly simmering, about 3 minutes. Add the cream and simmer, 4 minutes.
Drain and pat the cod dry. In a food processor, add the fish and pulse to break into coarse pieces. Add the potato and pulse to combine. Add the garlic-cream mixture and purèe until smooth. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste and mix to combine. (At this stage you can refrigerate the brandade until needed, up to one week.) Serve with baguette slices at warm room temperature, or heat in an oven-proof serving dish at 350 degrees until puffed up and warmed through, about 15 minutes.
Note: you can substitute the baking potato for a generous 1/2 C of mashed potatoes.