As usual, most of the family is gathering for Easter and we are waiting for most of the members on Holy Friday for a great 3 days week-end. Egg decorating, egg hunting, cooking, baking, drinking and eating will be our everyday duty and that makes us so happy!
I cannot really pretend that I have been doing any specific efforts during the Holy Week but we do respect the “fish only” rule that my Mum is used to apply since forever when it comes to Holy Friday… Anyway, she’s the one going to the supermarket. We do not really have any choice I guess!
Still, Holy Friday does not mean that we have to be starving or looking at our plate with disgust. Fish is good and tasty if you cook it properly and the Cod Brandade tradition just came to my mind as we were trying to think about a dish easy to share and to reheat for the late arrivals due to the traffic jam.
Cod Brandade can be cooked many ways, it can be a dip as well as a plain meal, it can be very fishy or full of flavor if you want to push the garlic presence for example. It’s up to what you want and what you like.
Here is my version…
- 1 small head garlic
- Olive oil
- Fresh cod filet about 800g
- 1 l of milk
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- 8-10 medium potatoes
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- A handful of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
First of all, you have to place your salted cod in a large bowl of fresh water to get rid of the salt. Usually, you have to do that at least 24 to 36 hours before and change the water 2 to 3 times.*
The other thing you can prepare ahead is the garlic. Place a whole head of garlic in a small pan of olive oil and slowly bring it to a soft boil for a few minutes. Turn off the heat but leave the garlic to rest in the oilve oil so that it gets “confit”. That process will help to get rid of the raw taste of the garlic and transform it into a nice nutty flavour. The garlic cloves will get slightly brown and very soft, almost a spreadable consistency.
Keep it in a well sealed jar with the olive oil and store it in a dry place.
Once the cod is ready to be cooked, place it in a pan and pour at least 1l of milk on top of it, add a bay leaf and thyme and bring it to a soft boil for 3-4 minutes. Once the cod has been poached, let it cool down in the milk.
Prepare the mash potatoes. Peel and wash the potatoes, if they are large potatoes, cut them into even pieces and place them in a large pan filled with water. Bring them to a boil and cook them until a knife can be inserted without resistance.
Drain them in a large colander and put them back in the pan or in a large bowl. Using a potato masher, start to work the potato and add some of the poaching milk on top if it is too dry.
You can also add olive oil or butter -depending on which one you prefer- to give it a smoother and richer texture. You are looking for a very soft almost spreadable mash potato as you will add the cod to it. Season with salt and pepper and reserve. If you prepare it a day ahead, cover it with cling film to prevent from crusting.
When you are ready to assemble the brandade, preheat your oven to 180°.
Once the cod is cool, start to flake it in a bowl and get rid of any remaining bones. Keep the milk at hand as you may need it to adjust the consistency of your brandade. Crush 3-4 “confit” garlic cloves and incorporate them to the cod, add the roughly chopped parsley.
Incorporate the cod mix to the mash potatoes and if needed, add some milk to get it soft. As you will cook it in the oven for a while, do not hesitate to make it moister than you want it as it will dry while cooking but not too much!
Taste and adjust the seasoning up to your taste.
In a gratin dish, pour the brandade mix and get the surface a nice uniform look, slightly higher in the center, like a dome.
Cook it in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes until it gets hot enough, slightly dark brown and crusty on top.
Serve it straight away with a fresh green salad tossed in French Dressing.
*We had bought the cod the same morning but I have changed the water almost every single hour and I did not add any salt to the mash potatoes. The result was slightly salty for me but the rest of the family did not seem to be bothered at all as there was no leftovers!