Salt Cod Purée
Brandade de Morue
One of my favorite past-times while travelling is visiting local supermarkets. Although nothing beats an outdoor European market for ambiance, I find that I really get a handle on the culture by going into simple neighborhood supermarkets. My husband and I have been known to bring home cases of French mustard, many pounds of frozen turtle meat from Louisiana, a year’s supply of Caribbean spices and cans of very strange things that we can’t get here in Connecticut. But you don’t have to travel out of the country to see some unusual stuff – just visit a local ethnic food store. It’s an amazing glimpse into another culture right at your doorstep.
One of my favorite places to shop is at the Portuguese grocery stores in Fall River MA. When I go to visit my mom, I stock up on all sorts of ethnic food. Recently I bought several cans of cod, known as “bacalhau” in Portuguese (“morue” in French). Codfish is a staple throughout the Mediterranean countries. You can find it fresh, frozen, dried and salted as well as canned. It comes packed in olive oil, similar to the cans of sardines we find in most Berkshire markets. If not available locally, you can also purchase the cans on Amazon.
These came in very handy when I needed to bring an appetizer to our local French Club meeting. I needed a quintessentially “French” appetizer that I could whip up fast. I love the traditional old French recipe Brandade de Morue (salt cod purée) but didn’t have the time to soak and desalinate the salt cod. Cans to the rescue! I have to admit, the quick emergency recipe I came up with came out great. Although most brandade recipes call for milk, I used the oil from the canned cod as a flavorful binder. From now on this is how I’ll make Brandade! This appetizer is best served warm along with some crusty bread, sturdy crackers or crudités.
BRANDADE de MORUE
2 russet potatoes, cubed
½ large sweet onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Olive oil for sautéing
2 (4.2 oz.) cans of cod in oil (bacalhau/morue)
¼ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook the potatoes in boiling water until tender but not mushy. Drain, but keep covered to stay warm in the pan.
While the potatoes are cooking, sauté the onion and garlic in a little olive oil until soft and just lightly browned. Add the onions and cans of cod (including oil) to the potatoes and beat with a hand mixer until well-incorporated. Add some more olive oil, if needed, to achieve a nice smooth texture for the dip. Stir in the parsley and add salt and pepper to taste.
Carefully reheat the brandade on low heat, constantly stirring, before placing into a serving bowl.
Although you might be tempted to use an immersion blender or small food processor to make the brandade – don’t – it could quickly cause the mixture to get gummy. A hand mixer incorporates air while mixing the ingredients, keeping them more light and fluffy. You can also use a hand-held potato masher or whisk.