I remember first trying brandade when I was in culinary school and experiencing a moment of euphoria. Brandade is a Mediterranean dip consisting of pureed potatoes, salt cod, garlic and olive oil, and it’s truly magical. What’s amazing about this dish is that it uses very humble ingredients and transforms them into something extraordinary.
The French call it Brandade de Morue and the Spanish call it Brandada de Bacalao (both morue and bacalao translate to cod), but they are essentially the same dish, and they both start with salt cod. Salt cod has been around for thousands of years, and for good reason. Historically there was an abundance of cod in the Atlantic Ocean, specifically off the coast of Newfoundland and Norway, and the traders, travelers, sailors and explorers needed to find a way to preserve the abundance of fish in order to prevent it from spoiling on their long voyages, and that’s how salt cod came onto the scene.
Because salt cod is well… salty, before it can be used it needs to be soaked in cold water for at least a day while being subjected to several changes of water to leach out the excess salt. Why go through all of this trouble? It’s has been a part of the culinary tradition in France, Italy, Portugal and Spain for hundreds of years, and, most importantly, because it’s delicious!
After the salt cod has had a chance to soak, the recipe comes together pretty quickly. The cod is drained and simmered in milk with cut up potatoes and lots of garlic until the potatoes are knife tender. It’s basically like making a batch of very garlicky mashed potatoes, but with the addition of the fish.
Once the potatoes are just about tender, set up a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (I imagine you can also use a hand mixer for this step, but I have never tried this). Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes, cod and garlic to your mixer bowl. Gently mix together just to break up the potatoes and fish.
Add one ladleful of the cooking liquid at a time, while gently mixing the brandade until you have a very creamy consistency. Keep in mind that this is supposed to be a dip/spread, and it should be thinner than mashed potatoes.
The last and most important part of the recipe is to emulsify extra virgin olive oil into the mixture by simply drizzling it in while mixing.
Believe it or not, you’ll probably need to add some salt to the mixture just because you have removed a lot of the salt from the cod during the soaking process.
Once it’s all seasoned to your liking, transfer to a baking dish and bake or broil until bubbly and golden brown. Serve with your favorite crusty bread, crostini, or crackers and maybe a simple mixed greens salad, pour yourself a glass of wine or beer, and you have yourself the ultimate Mediterranean meal.
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe
Yield: 8-10 servings
Active time: 40 minutes
Start to finish: 25 hours, 20 minutes (includes soaking time)
1 pound dried salt cod
5 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large dice
6 to 8 cloves garlic, peeled
2 bay leaves
2 cups whole milk or half and half
Water as needed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh chives, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
Your favorite bread, warmed
- Break the cod into large pieces, and place in a large bowl. Cover completely in cold water, and soak for at least 24 hours, refrigerated, changing the water every 8 to 10 hours. This will help remove a good portion of the salt.
- In saucepot, measure together the salt cod, potatoes, garlic cloves, bay leaves and milk or half and half. Add enough water so the potatoes and cod are just covered.
- Bring the liquid to a boil, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, covered, until the potatoes are knife tender, about 25 minutes.
- Preheat your boiler to low with the rack in the top position.
- Using a skimmer, transfer the potatoes, cod and garlic cloves to a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
- On low speed, break up the potatoes and cod until they are in small pieces.
- Start adding the cooking liquid, one ladleful at a time, until you have a very creamy consistency. Note: You will not need all of the cooking liquid.
- Once you have the desired consistency, drizzle in the olive oil and add the chives. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Transfer the mixture to an oven-proof baking dish, and broil until the top is golden brown and bubbly.
- Serve with your favorite bread.
Note: This recipe can easily be cut in half to make a smaller portion.
Where can you find salt cod? Look in ethnic markets, fish stores or even online. It’s not only great for Brandade, but excellent in fritters, stews and chowder. It’s also very prevalent in the Caribbean, and is used in salads and empanadas.
If this blog has you longing for more fish specialties from the Mediterranean, and if you’re looking for a special outing to celebrate the mom in your life, then don’t miss The Chopping Block's Mother’s Day Hands-On Trip to Provence where you’ll be preparing Tuna Niçoise Salad, Tomato and Goat Cheese Puff Pastry Tart and Lemon Cake with Lavender Whipped cream. Reserve your table today!