Versatile Salt Cod

September 16th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Is there any food more versatile than salt cod? HG has a pound of salt cod soaking in a big bowl of cold water (the cod has been rinsed and the water changed many times in the last 24 hours). How shall it be cooked? No, not a creamy brandade. HG likes to make this with fresh poached cod or haddock. Portuguese style? Cooked in the oven with lots of olive oil, garlic, onions and potatoes. Showered with black olives and halves of hard boiled eggs. Spanish. An emphasis on peppers and onions. Italian (served on polenta). Basically, a fish and tomato ragu. Save some of the poached cod for some fritters and cold salad tomorrow. Have just scratched the surface of possibilities. Love Jamaican Ackee and salt fish, but the ackee just isn’t available in these parts. If you are interested in the fascinating history of cod read Mark Kurlansky‘s book: Cod: A Biography of The Fish That Changed The World. He’s also done two other great books: Salt: A World History and The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell.

Baccala, Bacalao, Etc.

May 11th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Yes, salt cod is spelled in different ways in Portugal, Italy, Spain, Brazil, France and other countries where it is enjoyed and appreciated. It needs a good soaking in many changes of water before it can be cooked but that’s time well spent because it is a staple of many wonderful dishes. An HG favorite is Brandade, a puree of salt cod, potatoes, sweet cream and garlic — lots of garlic. HG eats it with slices of garlic rubbed, toasted sourdough bread. Cold Muscadet or Macon-Village Chardonnay is a pleasant accompaniment. HG likes the Brandade at both Balthazar, the busy New York brasserie and Jonathan Waxman’s Barbuto Restaurant in Greenwich Village.

Salt cod has an affinity for garlic. The Provence feast of poached salt cod and vegetables (cooked and raw) is served with an abundance of aioli, a garlic enriched mayonnaise. HG is looking forward this weekend to BSK’s Basque salt cod (cooked with olive oil, white wine, tomatoes, capers, parsley and, of course, garlic). BSK will serve it with her smashed potatoes gilded with Sicilian olive oil. And, to make sure that vampires are kept at bay, HG will make plenty of aioli (HG will add some cayenne for a bit of a bite).

While no garlic was served in the dish, SJ once made HG salivate with a description of an improvised feast in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica consisting of chunks of sat cod and yam roasted over an open fire with a hefty dose of margarine. And in Rome’s Campo Di Fiori there is a busy, little joint that apparently serves salt cod fritters to die for. HG bets there is garlic in those fritters.

In the Italian-Irish-Jewish Bronx nabe where HG was reared, lengths of dried salt cod were displayed like cord wood in every Italian food store. Now you can find it in cute little wooden boxes at the fish counters of supermarkets. Progress: The wooden box salt cod has less bones.

Salt Cod. Versatile. Delicious.

July 28th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

HG is a big fan of salt cod. It needs a good soaking in cold water (with frequent changes of the water). Then a gentle poaching or baking or whatever suits your fancy.

HG is a particular fan of the rich, luxury of a brandade (salt cod that has been pureed with some boiled potato, a lot of garlic, sweet cream and olive oil). Served with garlic rubbed toast (HG believes in keeping the vampires away) and chilled white wine it is a lush treat. You can get very good brandade at Balthazar, Five Points and Barbuto in downtown New York. The ultimate is at Rech, the classy brasserie in Paris.

Salt cod is good done in Mediterranean style — baked with thinly sliced onions, potatoes, garlic, olive oil and slivers of green olives. Try it cold as a simple Italian salad with parsley, garlic and olive oil. Or mix it with white beans. Salt cod makes great fish cakes.

When young, HG’s children, LR and SJ hated salt cod so much they stole a wooden box of the stuff from the pantry and buried it in the back yard. The years have made them change their minds.

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