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Brandade de Morue au Gratin
(recipe, Adam Ried)
Traditionally brandade is served with toasted slices of baguette, which I like to brush with olive oil before toasting and rub with a garlic clove when they come out of the oven.
Less traditionally, it’s also great with fresh vegetables for dipping, my favorites being sliced raw red pepper and fennel, raw sugar-snap peas and radishes (halved or quartered if large), and leaves of raw endive.
Brandade makes a very hearty hors d’oeuvre with drinks, or a fine dinner, with a big green salad and some roasted beets playing sidekick.
- 1 lb. skinned and boned salt-cod fillet
- 1¼ lb. Russet potatoes, scrubbed (about 3 medium-small)
- 2 whole cloves
- 1 large lemon, zest removed in strips with a vegetable peeler, and 2 Tbsp. juice, or more to taste
- 1⅓ cups half-and-half, or more to taste
- 2 bay leaves
- 10 large sprigs fresh thyme (or 2 teaspoons dried thyme)
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 1 medium shallot, minced (about ¼ cup)
- Cayenne pepper
- Salt and ground black pepper
- ½ cup breadcrumbs, preferably fresh
- Prep the cod: Rinse the salt cod well under cool running water, place it in a medium bowl, cover with cool water by about 2 inches, and refrigerate, covered, until desalinated, at least 24 hours (and up to 36), changing the water at least four times during that period.
- Cook the potatoes: With the rack in the center position, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Poke each potato several times with a fork and bake until tender (when a paring knife or skewer can be inserted and removed with little resistance), about 1 hour. Remove the potatoes from the oven (don’t turn it off), immediately cut a large cross in the top of each potato, and press in at ends of potato to push the flesh up and out so steam can escape. Scoop the flesh from the skins (and discard or snack on them) and into a potato ricer, and rice the potato flesh onto a large plate or baking dish (you should have about 3 cups). Spread the riced potatoes into a wide, even layer so the remaining steam can escape.
- Make the infusion: Meanwhile, stick the cloves into the strip of lemon zest (for easy removal later). Bring the half-and-half, bay leaves, thyme, and lemon zest to a strong simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Pour the mixture into a large heatproof container, cover, and set aside off the heat to infuse, at least 30 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaves, thyme, and lemon zest (if you’ve used dried thyme, you’ll have to strain the mixture), and set the infused half-and-half aside.
- Cook the cod: Rinse the saucepan well. Drain the salt cod, place it in the saucepan, cover with water by about 2 inches, and bring it to a simmer over medium-high heat. As soon as the water reaches a simmer, adjust the heat to low, skim the foam, and simmer gently until the salt cod flakes easily when poked with the tip of a paring knife, about 20 minutes. Drain the salt cod, and when it’s cool enough to handle, pick out and discard any residual skin, bones or tough bits. Flake the flesh (you should have about 3 cups) and set it aside.
- Cook the alliums: Heat 6 tablespoons of the olive oil, the garlic, and the shallot in the saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and the garlic just begins to sizzle, about 4 minutes. Add the infused half-and-half, whisk to combine, and set aside off heat.
- Assemble the brandade: Process the flaked salt cod, cayenne, 2½ teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon ground black pepper in a food processor until smooth, about 45 seconds, stopping once or twice to scrape down the bowl. With the feed tube open and the motor running, slowly drizzle in the half-and-half mixture, processing until the salt cod mixture is uniform; scrape down the bowl. Scrape the mixture into a medium bowl, add the riced potatoes and lemon juice, and fold the mixture with a flexible spatula until uniform. Taste and adjust the seasoning with additional salt, pepper, and lemon juice, and adjust the consistency with additional half-and-half if necessary.
- Bake the brandade: Smear a shallow, 1½- to 2-quart gratin or baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil. Scrape the brandade into the dish and spread it evenly. Stir the breadcrumbs, remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and ground black pepper to taste in the now-empty bowl to coat the crumbs. Sprinkle them evenly over the surface of the brandade and bake until the brandade is heated through and the breadcrumbs are well browned, about 20 minutes. Serve hot or warm.