Salt cod — we bought a whole cod as well as a fillet — soaking in fresh water to leech out the excess saltWe made brandade de morue on Thursday morning for our lunch. It was a group effort, with CHM, Walt, and I working on different parts of it at different stages. Cooking the salt cod on Thursday required starting on Wednesday, however, because the first step in preparing salt cod is to soak the fish in cold water for 24 hours to get most of the salt out of it. Salt cod seems to be permanently available in the supermarkets in Saint-Aignan and Noyers.
Here's the fish after soaking — cut into medium-size pieces and in the pot to be poached in fresh water.Soaking the cod means not just putting it in cold water for 24 hours, but also changing the water at least three or four times during that stretch of time. Evidently, the salt falls to the bottom — salt water is heavier than fresh water — so it's also good to put the fish on a rack to keep it from bathing in the saltiest water at the bottom of the container. Every few hours, then, pour off all the salty water and run new cold, fresh water in.
Walt mashed the poached codfish in a stone mortar with a heavy pestle. It looked and even smelled like good crabmeat at that point.After the fish is soaked and de-salted, it plumps up slightly. The next step is to cut it into pieces, bones and all, and to poach it. Put the pieces of fish in a big pot of fresh, cold water, and bring it to the boil. As soon as the pot starts to bubble, pour off that first water and replace it with more cold, fresh water. That continues the desalination process. Bring the fish back to a simmer in the second water and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Then take the pieces of fish out with a slotted spoon and spread them out on a baking pan to cool. brandade de morue. One is just the fish with olive oil, garlic, and onions. The other is the fish with those same ingredients, but mixed into mashed potatoes. That's the version we decided to make — a garden plot full of King Edward potatoes oblige. So while the fish is cooling, cook about an equal weight of peeled potatoes by putting them in a pot of cold water and bringing them to the boil. Adding a couple of bay leaves to the pot won't hurt anything. Don't add salt, though. When the potatoes are done, take them out of the water with a slotted spoon, put them in a bowl, and mash them with a fork or a potato masher.
"Sweat" some chopped onion and pressed garlic in a cup of olive oil on low heat. You just want to soften them, not brown them.When the fish is cool enough to handle, carefully flake each piece with your hands, removing and discarding all the skin and bones. If you want to, you can put the fish in batches in a mortar and mash it with the pestle. Or you can just put the flaked fish in the pot as described below and mash it up with a heavy wooden spoon. This recipe assumes you have about a kilogram (2 to 2½ lbs.) of salt cod (weighed before soaking) and an equal quantity of potatoes. Altogether, you'll need about 2 cups of olive oil.
Stir the fish and the potatoes into the warm olive oil to make a paste. Add warm milk or cream as needed to get the right consistency.In a big pot — the same pot will work for all the steps in the recipe, since things get cooked in stages — pour in about a cup of olive oil. In it, "sweat" three small onions, chopped, and six cloves of garlic, pressed (or crushed and chopped). Keep the heat low so the onions and garlic don't scorch, but just soften. When they're done, put the flaked or mashed fish into the pot, still on low heat, and start beating, stirring, and crushing it energetically with a heavy wooden spoon. brandade into a baking dish, smooth off the top with a spatula, and drizzle some olive oil over it. Set the dish in a fairly hot oven and let it cook for 15 or 20 minutes until the top is at least dried out, if not browned. Ours came out golden brown. brandade de morue — it would easily serve 6 or even 8 as a main course. If there aren't that many of you, the leftovers will freeze well. Let the brandade cool and then cut it into squares for freezing.