SALT COD PUREE
Brandade de Morue
GOOD SALT COD is filleted but not skinned before salting. If buying a section of fillet, avoid the tip of the tail and the abdominal flaps. The best part lies directly behind the abdomen. It may require from 24 to 36 hours soaking in repeated changes of cold water, preferably placed skin side up in a colander immersed in a large basin. Check with your merchant for soaking times. When it is ready, it will have doubled in volume and noticeably whitened.
Brandade is often served as a first course, scattered with tiny croutons fried in olive oil. Except for the Christmas Eve gros souper, Lulu nearly always serves it spread on individual croutons to accompany the aperitif. She emphasizes the importance of including the skin, whose gelatinous content binds the puree while lending it, at the same time, a soft, voluptuous texture.
Sections of wild fennel stalk, or a pinch of fennel seeds
1 bay leaf
4 garlic cloves, crushed
3 cups water
1 pound salt cod, soaked (see above)
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons milk
Thin slices of baguette, partially dried in a slow oven or in the sun and rubbed lightly with garlic [or fried in olive oil if calories don’t matter JW]
Combine the fennel, bay leaf, garlic, and water in a saucepan, bring to a boil, and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Strain the courtbouillon and leave it to cool. Place the salt cod, skin side down, in a saucepan just large enough to contain it, pour over the cold courtbouillon, and if necessary to completely immerse the cod, some cold water. Bring slowly to a boil, cover the pan tightly, turn off the heat, and leave to poach in the cooling liquid for 15 minutes. Remove the fish, drain it, and pick it over, removing any bones, flaking the flesh and tearing the skin to pieces.
In a food processor, process the flesh and skin for a few seconds. In a small pan, heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil until very hot. At the same time, put the milk to warm. Add the hot olive oil to the fish, process, warm the remaining oil to hot but not smoking, and whir in about 2 tablespoons. Add about 2 tablespoons hot milk and, if necessary, a little more olive oil and milk until the puree is creamy and consistent, neither too firm nor too loose. Spread it on the garlic croutons and serve warm.
[N.B. THIS IS STRONG! You might want to moderate with potato puree and/or more garlic.]
From Richard Olney, Lulu’s Provençal Cookbook: The Exuberant Food and Wine from the Domaine Tempier Vineyard, New York, HarperCollins 1994, pp83-5