I first came across this wonderful dish when I did work experience in a well known London restaurant many years ago. I was mid way through my cooking diploma and, having seen restaurants in action on a one night here, one night there basis, I arranged to spend a week with my favourite one.
Like all good restaurants their menu changed very frequently, only with the exception of two dishes. One was a chocolate almond praline parfait (but we'd better not talk about that one) and the other was a brandade made with salt cod, olive oil, garlic and puréed potatoes, served with a delicately poached egg on the top. I tell you for all its simplicity it was utterly amazing. It was my job to make the brandade and by the end of the week, when I was making and plating like a pro, the delight of seeing it go out into the big wide restaurant was indescribable.
I have very fond memories of that brandade, not least because (despite the fact it won't be winning awards in the department of pretty) it was seriously tasty. But now, having made it several times for the team, it has proved an excellent way of getting them to eat fish without complaint and that can't be bad. I don't know why there's always a battle because I love eating those slippery beasts. The children, however, do not!
Salting your own cod is very quick, easy, fun (let's not forget that) and much more cost effective than buying it already done by someone else. You just need to invest a bit of planning.
salt cod brandade
This recipe in its complete form needs starting a week beforehand, however it is entirely possible to cut corners by buying cod that's already been salted. Not nearly so much fun though!
500g cod fillet, skin removed
2 cups (450g) coarse sea salt (I use this one)
1.8 kg rutabaga, peeled and chopped into 1" pieces
6 fat cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
1 bay leaf (I use this one)
2 tbsp solid fat (I use bacon fat or lard)
parsley to garnish
To salt the cod -
Put 1 cup of the salt into a large lidded glass dish and lay the cod over the top in one layer. Put the other cup of salt over the top and make sure it comes down the sides of the fish so all the flesh is covered. Cover with a lid and put into the refrigerator for 7 days. On the 7th day, rinse the fish well, preferably with filtered water, clean the container out, fill it with clean filtered water and put the fish back in. Put back into the refrigerator. Rinse the fish several times over the course of 24 hours, each time putting back into fresh, filtered water.
To make the recipe -
Put the rutabaga and garlic into a large pan and half cover with filtered water. Put a lid on the pan, bring to a simmer and cook until the pieces are tender, approximately 20-25 minutes. Drain and keep aside with the lid on to allow the remaining water to evaporate.
At the same time, place the fish and bay leaf into a large sauté pan and add filtered water to cover. Cover with a lid, bring up to barely a simmer and poach very gently for 10 minutes or so depending on the thickness. Some pieces may need to be removed before others. The fish should no longer be translucent although not falling apart, if in doubt it is better to undercook as it will continue its cooking in the hot mash. Using a slotted spoon, remove the fish and drain on a plate, keeping warm.
Transfer the rutabaga to a food processor and add the fat. Blend until smooth, then put into a large serving bowl. Using your fingers gently flake the fish into bite sized chunks, then fold into the mash gently so as not to break apart the flakes still further. Check to make sure you don't need to add salt, you should be fine without it.
If you have introduced eggs (and lucky you as these are not strict AIP) serve the brandade with a poached egg on the top. Alternatively a green salad, with the simplest dressing of olive oil and lemon juice is all you need. Garnish with parsley.