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LindaK

Salt Cod Diary

217 posts in this topic

Over the holidays I stumbled across some really beautiful salt cod at a local Italian market. I couldn’t resist buying too much of it. Over here there's been occasional discussion about salt cod, but except for this excellent tutorial on a philippino baccalao stew, we’ve never shared our cooking exploits.

For those of you unacquainted with this humble product, here’s a 2+ lb, skinless and boneless fillet:

DSCF0513-1.JPG

Though most local grocery stores carry salt cod pieces packed in little wooden boxes, if you can find whole fillets like this they are generally far superior, with thick, white flesh.

You can see how dry it is before being soaked:

DSCF0526.JPG

And how it looks, cut into large pieces, after 48 hrs in several changes of water:

DSCF0548.JPG

Before venturing into new territory, I needed a fix of brandade, that delicious puree of salt cod, potatoes (optional), and cream, with some olive oil and garlic thrown in for good measure.

I cooked it in water and milk, though often I only use water. Once it simmers, take it off the heat and let it sit for 10-15 minutes, then remove it from the liquid to cool. Once cooked, it flakes easily. I like mine chunky:

DSCF0552.JPG

Of course, there are differing opinions on the various components of brandade. Potato or no potato? I usually add it because that’s what I grew up with. My mother added potato out of economy but it also mellows the flavor of really strong salt cod. Garlic? Not every recipe calls for garlic, but I’ve come to like it. The last variable is the fat—milk, cream, crème fraiche, or olive oil—or some combination? I’ve adopted a combo of cream and olive oil but that’s my personal taste.

Here’s a portion served with a few garlic-rubbed croutons, a salad, and some wine. Don't let its unassuming appearance deceive you--it's briny, earthy, slightly sweet from the cream, a hint of garlic--my idea of comfort food par excellence.

DSCF0557.JPG

I haven't decided what I'll cook next with the 3+ lbs of salt cod I still have left. Any suggestions? Anyone else cooking with salt cod these days?

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Very nice expose on salt cod, thanks.

In our part of France (the Rouergue) a local dish is called "Estafinado".

Its basically a Brandade, but with walnut oil instead of olive oil. Its excellent!

Here's a recipe: (in French I'm afraid, but I couldn't find an English translation)

(iIngrédients

pour Estafinado du cantal

1 kg de morue salée (salt cod)

1 kg de pommes de terre (potatoes)

8 oeufs entiers (eggs)

3 gousses d’ail (cloves of garlic)

1 bouquet de persil (Parsley)

2 l de court-bouillon (beef stock)

1 citron (One lemon)

un peu de lait (si besoin) Milk, Optional)

12 croûtons dorés au beurre (croutons fried in butter)

1 verre d’huile de noix (a glass of walnut oil)

sel, poivre

Préparation

pour Estafinado du cantal

Faites dessaler la morue pendant 24 à 72 heures selon salage, en changeant l’eau deux fois par jour. Faites-la cuire doucement pour 20 min au court-bouillon. Pelez-la, ôtez les arêtes et écrasez bien la chair à la fourchette.

Laissez cuire les pommes de terre à l’eau et en faisant une purée sèche. Faites cuire 3 oeufs durs, écalez-les et réservez-les. Battez les 5 autres oeufs en omelette.

Mélangez la morue avec la purée et les oeufs battus à feu très doux. Poivrez.

Ajoutez l’ail et le persil hachés et malaxez le tout jusqu’à ce que le mélange soit bien homogène.

Incorporez l’huile de noix très chaude et continuez à malaxer encore 5 min. Si le mélange est trop sec, ajoutez un peu de lait bouillant.

Vérifiez l’assaisonnement. Décorez avec les oeufs durs, en quartiers ou en rondelles.

Servez sur des assiettes chaudes avec des croûtons dorés et une tranche de citron.n French .

If in difficulty PM me & I'l will translate the whole thing.


Edited by Dave Hatfield (log)

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I recently took a cooking class with Rosetta Costantino, the author of a new cookbook, My Calabria. We made a memorably good winter salad of salt cod, potatoes, red onion, and capers, in a lemon vinaigrette. I want to make this one at home, but I haven't tracked down the salt cod yet.

The recipe is on Googlebooks, page 187. Here:

http://books.google.com/books?id=86R77RdzTj8C&pg=PA187&lpg=PA187&dq=costantino+my+calabria+salt+cod+potato&source=bl&ots=vW5iLIGri8&sig=wzrERw3DyE7bAsy93PcRpClg5bA&hl=en&ei=vdMoTe_pJIX4sAP08NDoBw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBMQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

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Very nice expose on salt cod, thanks.

In our part of France (the Rouergue) a local dish is called "Estafinado".

Its basically a Brandade, but with walnut oil instead of olive oil. Its excellent!

Here's a recipe: (in French I'm afraid, but I couldn't find an English translation)

(iIngrédients

pour Estafinado du cantal

1 kg de morue salée (salt cod)

1 kg de pommes de terre (potatoes)

8 oeufs entiers (eggs)

3 gousses d’ail (cloves of garlic)

1 bouquet de persil (Parsley)

2 l de court-bouillon (beef stock)

1 citron (One lemon)

un peu de lait (si besoin) Milk, Optional)

12 croûtons dorés au beurre (croutons fried in butter)

1 verre d’huile de noix (a glass of walnut oil)

sel, poivre

Préparation

pour Estafinado du cantal

Faites dessaler la morue pendant 24 à 72 heures selon salage, en changeant l’eau deux fois par jour. Faites-la cuire doucement pour 20 min au court-bouillon. Pelez-la, ôtez les arêtes et écrasez bien la chair à la fourchette.

Laissez cuire les pommes de terre à l’eau et en faisant une purée sèche. Faites cuire 3 oeufs durs, écalez-les et réservez-les. Battez les 5 autres oeufs en omelette.

Mélangez la morue avec la purée et les oeufs battus à feu très doux. Poivrez.

Ajoutez l’ail et le persil hachés et malaxez le tout jusqu’à ce que le mélange soit bien homogène.

Incorporez l’huile de noix très chaude et continuez à malaxer encore 5 min. Si le mélange est trop sec, ajoutez un peu de lait bouillant.

Vérifiez l’assaisonnement. Décorez avec les oeufs durs, en quartiers ou en rondelles.

Servez sur des assiettes chaudes avec des croûtons dorés et une tranche de citron.n French .

If in difficulty PM me & I'l will translate the whole thing.

That sounds nice. In fact, I've never had salt cod before but have been meaning to try it. This looks like the place to start.

Google Translate did a reasonable job of translating the bits I didn't fully understand.


Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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I adore salt cod, especially in Patricia Wells's version of Gratin de Morue in Bistro Cooking. It's the same basic flavors as brandade, but with thinly sliced potatoes and chunks of simmered salt cod instead of the puree.

What do we think of the rock hard salt cod that one gets in Italian markets versus the moister salt cod that comes packed in a wooden box and frozen? I've got limited experience with the rock hard kind but the one I got was very good, better than the boxed ones.

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Thanks for the ideas. Interesting how potatoes usually factor into salt cod recipes. Not that I'm complaining.

I just did a search on eatyourbooks.com and found that I have 56 recipes for salt cod sitting on my bookshelves. Many are variations on the same themes, but I'll need to take a closer look.

What do we think of the rock hard salt cod that one gets in Italian markets versus the moister salt cod that comes packed in a wooden box and frozen? I've got limited experience with the rock hard kind but the one I got was very good, better than the boxed ones.

Diana, I find just the opposite. The salt cod you see here was from a local Italian market and it was much better than the stuff in the wooden boxes that I can ordinarily find.

The only problem with salt cod is that there is no such thing as spontaneity. It needs to be soaked at least a day in advance. I just put another large piece in some water. Let's see what I come up with in a couple of days. In the meantime, please send your inspiration my way. Maybe someone else is craving salt cod and wants to cook along?



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I've never used salt cod but looking at those beautiful soaked filets, I'm wondering - can this be treated as fresh cod and pan-fried? Or is it still too salty and needing something to act as foil for the salt remaining in the fish? I'm also wondering what the texture is like.

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Very interesting, Linda. About an hour south, I found a few slabs of fine looking salt cod at the Cranston Whole Foods. It's in the fridge soaking as I speak, just at the end of day one. Needs, at least, another day or so. I work Sunday night, so we're looking at Monday at the earliest. I'm thinking of fritters now, but I'm game for suggestions as well.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Over the holidays I stumbled across some really beautiful salt cod at a local Italian market.

For those of you unacquainted with this humble product, here’s a 2+ lb, skinless and boneless fillet:

Here’s a portion served with a few garlic-rubbed croutons, a salad, and some wine. Don't let its unassuming appearance deceive you--it's briny, earthy, slightly sweet from the cream, a hint of ]garlic--my idea of comfort food par excellence.

DSCF0557.JPG

Do you know where that cod is from? It doesn't look like anything I've seen in either Italian or Portuguese markets, and the Portuguese are the cod fish kings. I buy Norwegian salt cod, supposedly the best (and fabulously expensive).

The brandade looks fabulous. Love it. Codfish cakes are very good.

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Diana, I find just the opposite. The salt cod you see here was from a local Italian market and it was much better than the stuff in the wooden boxes that I can ordinarily find.

No, that's what I was saying as well--the one I got at the Italian market was better than the wooden box kind. We're in agreement!

Elsie, there are lots of Italian preparations in which the cod is dredged in flour, fried, then added to the dish. (Probably other cuisines, too, but I'm most familiar with Italian.) And depending on how long you soak it, it can often be not salty at all by the time you use it. I think the best way to describe the texture is that it's even more cod-like--you know how cod is a bit more chewy or fibrous than, say halibut? Well, salt cod is even more so. That same quality is just amplified.

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Sometimes I make crochette out of the brandade which I love.....

We also eat it just coated with flour and fried. And sometimes we take the fried pieces and re-cook them in a quick tomato sauce.

But, there is one recipe that for me, stands out. It's sort of a (layered) casserole made with potatoes, cod and rice that originated in Puglia. It's very similar to another dish they do down there called, Riso, Patate e Cozze which is the same thing basically but uses Mussels instead of Cod.

It's got to be my all time favorite cod preparation and I only just discovered it in some random cookbook at my Mother in Laws House. You'll have to forgive me for my poor recipe writing skills, but I didn't really follow the recipe quantities, as I didn't have the book in front of me.

You need:

Chopped Garlic

Chopped Parsley

Chopped Tomatoes(Optional)

Thin slices of Onion

Rice (I used Carnaroli risotto rice)

Olive Oil and Butter (although the butter is optional)

White Wine

Water

Thinly Sliced Potatoes ( the whole dish doesn't take more than 30-40 mins so parboil them if necessary!)

Bread crumbs

Grated Pecorino cheese (optional!! I did not use as i don't like it.)

Any spice you like (I used some bay leaf.)

Salt/Pepper

A casserole or pyrex dish

Add some olive oil and thinly sliced white onions to the bottom of the pyrex. If you are using tomato, you can sprinkle some here and there as well. Then line the whole dish with potato slices. Sprinkle with garlic and parsley. Add layer of cod. Sprinkly with garlic and parsely and tomato if you are using. Sprinkle rice over the whole pan. Sprinkle in white wine, garlic and parsley. Dot with butter if you are using. Add water. Following the directions for the rice you are using. (Mine for example, was 1:2). Cover the entire pyrex with the potatoes. Add salt and pepper ( I did not salt the rest of the dish in case the cod is salty), drizzle of oil, bread crumbs and tomatoes if you are using to the top later of potatoes. Bake for as long as it take the rice to cook not usually more than 30-40 minutes. Taste it as soon as the water looks absorbed. If it seems to need more water, don't hesitate to add it!


Edited by ambra (log)

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My favorite has got to be Bacalhau à Brás, which is basically flaked salt cod, onions, potatoes, and eggs. Very good, and very easy.

Quick question, if anyone knows: can you freeze salt cod after soaking? Particularly for any recipe that doesn't call for filets, I could see soaking the cod, flaking it into a freezer bag, and stashing it in the feezer. That way the planning time winds up being more like an hour instead of days. Does this work, or does it lose its particular je ne sais quoi when frozen?

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So many excellent and unusual ideas! Thanks everyone.

Do you know where that cod is from? It doesn't look like anything I've seen in either Italian or Portuguese markets, and the Portuguese are the cod fish kings. I buy Norwegian salt cod, supposedly the best (and fabulously expensive).

I don't know, but I'll stop by the shop and ask where they get it. They only carry it seasonally, which is why I'm stocking up on it now.

I've never used salt cod but looking at those beautiful soaked filets, I'm wondering - can this be treated as fresh cod and pan-fried? Or is it still too salty and needing something to act as foil for the salt remaining in the fish? I'm also wondering what the texture is like.

Diana, I find just the opposite. The salt cod you see here was from a local Italian market and it was much better than the stuff in the wooden boxes that I can ordinarily find.

No, that's what I was saying as well--the one I got at the Italian market was better than the wooden box kind. We're in agreement!

Elsie, there are lots of Italian preparations in which the cod is dredged in flour, fried, then added to the dish. (Probably other cuisines, too, but I'm most familiar with Italian.) And depending on how long you soak it, it can often be not salty at all by the time you use it. I think the best way to describe the texture is that it's even more cod-like--you know how cod is a bit more chewy or fibrous than, say halibut? Well, salt cod is even more so. That same quality is just amplified.

Diana, we are in agreement, yes!

Elsie, Diana’s description is good. After it's been soaked, the cod is very supple but still quite firm--not nearly as tender or fragile as fresh cod. Think of gravlax, only thicker!

As to whether it's too salty to use as a fillet, that really depends on the cod. This particular batch might lend itself to that, since it's thicker and less salty than the cod I usually find. In a couple of recipes I've seen for curing the salted cod yourself, such as in the Zuni Cafe cookbook, there are suggestions for using the soaked cod like carpaccio. But I doubt most commercial stuff lends itself to that treatment.

One of the few “whole fillet” recipes I’ve found is salt cod “pil pil,” which I see in cookbooks as diverse as Paula Wolfert’s “The Cooking of South-West France” and Jose Andre’s “Made in Spain.” It uses the gelatin from the cod fillet to create an emulsified sauce with olive oil, which has been flavored with both garlic and hot pepper. It might be next on my list, save for one concern: my salt cod is skinless, and these recipes refer to cod fillets with skin—I wonder whether the skin in crucial to the recipe, maybe that’s where the necessary gelatin is. Does anyone have any experience eating or cooking this dish?



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My favorite has got to be Bacalhau à Brás, which is basically flaked salt cod, onions, potatoes, and eggs. Very good, and very easy.

Quick question, if anyone knows: can you freeze salt cod after soaking? Particularly for any recipe that doesn't call for filets, I could see soaking the cod, flaking it into a freezer bag, and stashing it in the feezer. That way the planning time winds up being more like an hour instead of days. Does this work, or does it lose its particular je ne sais quoi when frozen?

Good question. I've always successfully frozen the cod while it's still salted. I have two lbs of this stash in the freezer now. Vacuum sealed, btw. Salt cod can be pretty pungent.



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My favorite has got to be Bacalhau à Brás, which is basically flaked salt cod, onions, potatoes, and eggs. Very good, and very easy.

Quick question, if anyone knows: can you freeze salt cod after soaking? Particularly for any recipe that doesn't call for filets, I could see soaking the cod, flaking it into a freezer bag, and stashing it in the feezer. That way the planning time winds up being more like an hour instead of days. Does this work, or does it lose its particular je ne sais quoi when frozen?

Where I live, you can buy frozen cod that has already been soaked. It's also not vaccuum packed.


Edited by ambra (log)

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Here is the Gratin de Morue.

1 lb salt cod

2 c milk

2 t chopped fresh thyme

3 bay leaves

1 lb baking potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

2 large egg yolks

1/2 c creme fraiche or heavy cream

salt and pepper

1 garlic clove, halved

3 T unsalted butter

1. Soak the salt cod as usual.

2. Put cod in large saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to simmer over medium heat. Immediately remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let stand 15 minutes. Drain. Remove any bones or icky bits and tear into bite-size pieces.

3. In a saucepan, combine milk, thyme, and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer, cover, and let stand 15 min.

4. Preheat oven to 350.

5. Add potatoes to milk mixture and simmer until tender.

6. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and creme fraiche/heavy cream. Remove potato mixture from heat and stir in egg and cream. Season with salt and pepper.

7. Rub baking dish with with cut garlic and then 1 T of butter. Put half the potato mixture into the dish, then all of the cod, then the other half of the potato mixture. Dot with the rest of the butter and bake until golden, about 45 min.

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I remembered that there were quite a few salt cod recipes in Colman Andrews's Catalan Cuisine -- a must-have cookbook on sale at Amazon for a mere $10! -- so I made the recipe that allowed me to use things on hand and that seemed most appealing to the family: Salt Cod with Garlic & Paprika "On the Tin." Mine was on an enameled cast iron Le Creuset au gratin pan, btw.

Dredge the (desalinated, skinned, boned) salt cod in flour and sauté until brown; remove to drain on paper towels while you sauté some garlic and ground tomato in some of the oil. Add sweet paprika (I added a little smoked too), salt, pepper, and white wine; reduce to a thick sauce. Pour over the fish in a skillet or other oven-proof shallow metal baking dish. 400F for 10-15 minutes until cooked through.

It was excellent, both right out of the oven and at room temp just now. Served it with, of all things, Janson's Temptation, which was a very good pairing, latitude be damned.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Chris, I just ordered the cookbook and will put that recipe on my list.

But tonight, I took one for the team to answer the question: "can you cook a reconstituted salt cod fillet as you would fresh cod?"

Preliminary response: no, not if you want to eat it.

The only recipe I could find that didn't involve a sauce or liquid of some sort (cream, tomato, etc.) came from Carol Field's "Celebrating Italy." She includes a recipe for Baccala Arrosta (roasted salt cod) that sounds delicious--a thick piece of center fillet salt cod, well soaked, dredged in breadcrumbs seasoned with fresh rosemary and olive oil.

It looked good coming out of the oven:

DSCF0577.JPG

But despite the lovely flakiness of what you see here, it was still too salty and chewy. This has soaked for 2+ days. Maybe a longer soak would have made a difference. Lucky for me I had some roasted potaoes and kale to go along with it--mashed together, it was okay. But it needed a braising liquid or some cream--or something--to soften the fish and mellow the flavor. I'm not sure I'll try this one again.



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I make baccala every year on Christmas Eve. Thankfully in the Philadelphia area, we have lots of good Italian specialty stores so sourcing is never a problem. This year's was really really salty. My Nana said you need to soak it once or twice in water, then soak it once in milk. I'm going to try that next year. My family is a bunch of salt freaks so the saltiness didn't bother them.

This year's dish was a simple battered fried baccala.

I made a batter based on the version in the Silver Spoon cookbook, with some slight differences. I haven't made a batter using this method before, but it came out really good so I thought I'd share. I adjusted the measurements slightly.

2 cups AP flour

1/4 cup white wine

3 Tbsp Limoncello (The original recipe called for grappa but the stuff was outrageously expensive so I used what I had on hand.)

1 Egg, separated

Stir the yolks with the flour, wine and Limoncello then wait 30 minutes. Whisk the whites into a nice fluffy volume and fold them into the yolk mixture. Dunk in fish, fry in hot oil, drink the rest of the wine and limoncello ;)



I have simple tastes. I am always satisfied with the best - Oscar Wilde

The Easy Bohemian

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But despite the lovely flakiness of what you see here, it was still too salty and chewy. This has soaked for 2+ days. Maybe a longer soak would have made a difference.

How frequently did you change the water during those two days? Maybe more frequent changes would help too.

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I often have excess fish around--a function of curious fish-buying habits--and I always preserve it in salt. My go-to use for it, these days, is fish cakes--much like the aforementioned fried baccala. Works awfully well: poach the salt fish as usual, in milk/water, flake it into a bowl, and proceed as with any cod-cake recipe. Sensational!

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But despite the lovely flakiness of what you see here, it was still too salty and chewy. This has soaked for 2+ days. Maybe a longer soak would have made a difference.

How frequently did you change the water during those two days? Maybe more frequent changes would help too.

2-3 times a day. That's been enough when poaching it for other uses. But you're probably right, when cooking it this way, it needs more.

I am intrigued by Mike's advice--or rather, the advice of his Nana--to soak it in milk. I've poached it in water and milk, and that definitely mellows it. But I've never tried milk for a soak. That is worth a try.

I often have excess fish around--a function of curious fish-buying habits--and I always preserve it in salt. My go-to use for it, these days, is fish cakes--much like the aforementioned fried baccala. Works awfully well: poach the salt fish as usual, in milk/water, flake it into a bowl, and proceed as with any cod-cake recipe. Sensational!

Daniel, can you say more about your salting process? How does it compare to what you buy commercially?



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In the interest of science, I've done a repeat experiment with baking a fillet of salt cod. This was the twin piece to the fillet I roasted above (with barely edible results).

What I did differently: it got 2 full days of additional soaking, one in water, the other in milk. I also decided to extend the cooking time from the original recipe, which was 15 minutes at 350. Even after 4 days of soaking, salt cod is still denser and less delicate than when fresh. And this salt cod is particularly thick, almost 3 inches.

Otherwise the same simple seasoned bread crumb treatment. I'll admit that my hopes were not high. But the results were very good. It took close to 30 minutes before the cod became tender throughout, but the breadcrumbs and oil kept the exterior moist. I don't know how often I'll want to cook it this way, but it's good to know how.

The fried salt cod recipe with limocello has me intrigued, and I'm thinking about fritters too.



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