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LindaK

Salt Cod Diary

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I never commented on the lovely salt cod gratins and the avocado dish but that's not for lack of interest.  They look great.  Bethesdabakers, if you like salt cod and eggs together, try the salt cod frittata, it's easy and a keeper.  And I love the idea of avocado with the salt cod-prawn mix, and of course the use of chiles.

 

I am still looking for good salt cod fillets with skin. Maybe it's time to order online somewhere.

 

The detailed posts about using salted fish in Chinese dishes are fascinating, thanks for adding them here.  I'd love to see your own examples. I'm afraid this area is  daunting for me, who has no real experience making Chinese food.  I need to find a way to approach this vast topic. 

 

Back to my comfort zone. Now that the temperature is dropping, here's an end-of-summer vegetable and salt cod gratin.

 

DSCF1637.JPG

 

Layers, from top to bottom:

 

Zucchini and summer squash

Sliced tomatoes (and few cherry tomatoes)

Salt cod—fillets sliced, dredged in flour, and sautéed in olive oil til lightly golden but not cooked through.

Caramelized onion and garlic

Sliced potatoes

Fresh parsley, thyme, and basil liberally sprinkled throughout and extra basil after baking

 

Based on a recipe from the Union Square Café Cookbook by Danny Meyer and Michael Romano.  I simplified the layering to fit into individual gratin dishes and added the potato layer at the bottom to absorb all the lovely juices.  Very easy and delicious, even if it doesn’t look very pretty. I'll make it again before summer vegs go away and will work on the presentation.

 

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Linda, Chave's market in Fall River used to sell Norwegian salt cod with skin. Very expensive. You could call them.

 

Thanks for the suggestion. I did a quick search for it and stumbled across another option in Fall River: Portugalia Marketplace, a retail outlet of a Portuguese importing company.  The Boston Globe did a brief write-up, which I missed: Portuguese specialties fill a former mill in Fall River

 

It sounds like they sell everything Portuguese, which is exciting enough. But this: "a room devoted entirely to salt cod, a staple of Portuguese cuisine; every portion of the fish is available — loins, faces, cheeks, and the chewy tongue" has me dreaming of a field trip (Fall River is about an hour south of Boston, for those not from these parts).  When I go, I'll report back for sure.

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Thanks for the suggestion. I did a quick search for it and stumbled across another option in Fall River: Portugalia Marketplace, a retail outlet of a Portuguese importing company.  The Boston Globe did a brief write-up, which I missed: Portuguese specialties fill a former mill in Fall River

 

It sounds like they sell everything Portuguese, which is exciting enough. But this: "a room devoted entirely to salt cod, a staple of Portuguese cuisine; every portion of the fish is available — loins, faces, cheeks, and the chewy tongue" has me dreaming of a field trip (Fall River is about an hour south of Boston, for those not from these parts).  When I go, I'll report back for sure.

Don 't know that place, wonder if it is new, but description sounds amazing. Chave's has great homemade chorizo too and large selection of Breads and epwines. If you do go to Fall River ( it's actually an easy trip down 24) try to time it for an early pilgrimage to Sam's on Flint Street for warm lamejun and turnovers from this old Lebanese family bakery. Better than Watertown. Sat is a good day but get there early!

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Don 't know that place, wonder if it is new, but description sounds amazing. Chave's has great homemade chorizo too and large selection of Breads and epwines. If you do go to Fall River ( it's actually an easy trip down 24) try to time it for an early pilgrimage to Sam's on Flint Street for warm lamejun and turnovers from this old Lebanese family bakery. Better than Watertown. Sat is a good day but get there early!

That sounds fabulous, I will. I'm coordinating a visit w/ friends who live nearby, so hopefully I'll get there in the next month or so. Thanks for the recommendations.



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So I finally made the trip to Portugalia Marketplace in Fall River.  The record snowfall kept me away during the winter and busy schedules interfered until recently.

 

My friends in nearby Westport welcomed me with lots of wonderful things from their favorite Lebanese bakery, so we didn't make the trip to Chave's. Next time I'll go on my own when I'm in that area.

 

The salt cod at Portugalia was definitely worth the trip. An incredibly huge selection, with very nice and knowledgeable staff.  I posted a full report of Portugalia here but here's what I said about the salt cod:

 

The salt cod is kept In a room all to itself, controlled for temperature and humidity. And probably to prevent the entire store from smelling like salt cod.

IMG_0671.JPG  IMG_0670.JPG

 

There’s a huge selection from Portugal, Canada, and Norway. Grouped according to quality grade. Prices were very fair, the most expensive I saw was $9.99 lb.

 

Most are whole fish with the skin still on, but there are also large skinless fillets, also of different quality grades. The biggest I’ve ever seen.  I watched an elderly lady expertly flip though bins and walk away with three enormous fillets.  How many people was she cooking for??

IMG_0677.JPG   IMG_0678.JPG   IMG_0679.JPG

 

There are boxes of gloves everywhere so that you can sort through the fish and pick your own.  The staff were friendly and happy to offer advice, suggestions, and explain the differences between different grades.  They’ll also cut the fish up for you, which is good because that skin is really tough.

 

One nice find: salt cod “bits” for sale, skinless trimmings from cutting fillets and the salt cod they use for their prepared dishes Good quality, some thick pieces, some less desirable thin tail pieces that yield less fish. I bought a pound and was pleased with what I got for $3.99 lb. A good deal for things like codfish cakes or fritters.

IMG_0681.JPG

 

The nice thing about the "bits" is that they didn't take long to soak before they were ready to use.  In fact, you need to be careful not to oversoak.  My lb was ready to use in about 5 hrs.  It made me wonder why I didn't always cut the big fillets into smaller pieces when I know I'll be flaking them...obvious, maybe, but I hadn't thought of it.

 

I walked away with a lot of salt cod.  When I told staff that I usually kept a stash in the freezer, they recommended freezing it before soaking.  I told them I'd been happy with soaking it first, but they insisted that it wasn't best for the fish.  So that's what I did. Double or triple bag it to keep odors at bay.

 

 

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Oh, good. I was keeping mine in the freezer until about page, then defrosted, soaked and poached it. I guess I'll have to eat it all! So far I've made some "Trini" codfish cakes, but with just a touch Of cornmeal.

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Oh, good. I was keeping mine in the freezer until about page, then defrosted, soaked and poached it. I guess I'll have to eat it all! So far I've made some "Trini" codfish cakes, but with just a touch Of cornmeal.

 

Hi Shrinkrap,  welcome to eGullet.

 

Can you describe a "trini" codfish cake?  The cornmeal addition is interesting.



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Many of the islands have their own style, like "stamp and go" in Jamaica, bocalaitos in PR, accra in Haiti. I grew up on those that were mostly fish, little filler, some "green seasoning", fried sort of flat rather thsn round, very spicy, no egg, and of course no potato. My mom's family is from Nevis, but most of the recipes I dig up and seem "right" seem to be from Trinidad. Or "Bajan".


Edited by Shrinkrap (log)

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Linda - The Spice Necklace and An Embarrassment of Mangoes by Amy Vanderhoof have recipes and descriptions of these delights

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David, that looks very tempting.  I actually like leftover salt cod gratin for breakfast so that close-up photo is making me really hungry.

 

I haven’t done anything new with salt cod for a while, but your photo convinced me to take a big piece out of the freezer.  Any ideas for something different?

 

The guys at Portugalia (see above) were adamant that when freezing salt cod it should not be soaked first, so mine won’t be ready to use for a couple of days.  I’m not convinced, though. I’ve been soaking-then-freezing for a few years now and have been happy with the results.  It certainly makes it more convenient to use. If I don’t see a difference with this piece, I’ll go back to my old ways.

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There's a nice article and a recipe for Whipped Salt-Cod Spread in today's Serious Eats (Daniel Gritzer). I've been enjoying this thread, trying to work up the nerve to actually buy some salt cod and cook with it. I'll get there. 

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Cakewalk, I hope you’ll give it a try and let us know how it goes.

 

Thanks for the heads up re: the article in Serious Eats. It's a pretty straightforward brandade recipe. I’m very interested in his suggestion to use the paddle blade of a stand mixer to approximate the texture of pounding the salt cod in a mortar and pestle. Doing it by hand is a bit of a pain but I like the texture better than using a food processor (I don't use a mortar and pestle, just a bowl and a big wooden spoon). If I need to make a lot, I’ll start in a food processor and finish by hand.  I’m going to try the stand mixer this time.

 

Btw, brandade is definitely a good starter recipe, as it’s easy and if you're uncertain about the flavor being too strong, you can adjust the strength by adding more/less potatoes.



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Does it matter what type of potato is used, a drier baking potato or a more moist potato? For my first try with salt-cod, I will almost definitely add some potatoes.

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Does it matter what type of potato is used, a drier baking potato or a more moist potato? For my first try with salt-cod, I will almost definitely add some potatoes.

 

A very good question. there's no agreement on this or consistency across recipes, at least that I can find.  I've come to prefer the dryer potatoes for recipes like brandade or fritters where the potato is mashed, I think the results are lighter and fluffier.  The waxy potatoes are good for recipes when you want potatoes to keep their shape, such as gratins or salads with sliced potatoes. But I've used whatever I have on hand.

 

The one bit of advice I'd give is to let the cooked potatoes dry out a bit before using them, and if you need to mash them, do it while they're still hot so they don't turn gummy.



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David, that looks very tempting.  I actually like leftover salt cod gratin for breakfast so that close-up photo is making me really hungry.

 

I haven’t done anything new with salt cod for a while, but your photo convinced me to take a big piece out of the freezer.  Any ideas for something different?

 

The guys at Portugalia (see above) were adamant that when freezing salt cod it should not be soaked first, so mine won’t be ready to use for a couple of days.  I’m not convinced, though. I’ve been soaking-then-freezing for a few years now and have been happy with the results.  It certainly makes it more convenient to use. If I don’t see a difference with this piece, I’ll go back to my old ways.

Hah.  We think alike!  I love this gratin for breakfast.  With a poached egg on top, my Doctor will never know.  I also form this into little cakes and saute it to crisp the crust.  Then serve with a rich fish like salmon or sea bass.  Sablefish, (aka black cod) is another good choice.  Although if you use a white fish, halibut for example, it's a white fish white salt cod dinner.  I love it, but some of my food friends want some color on the plate.  I give them a lemon buerre blanc for color.

 

I only use Russet potatoes, I suppose due to living in Eastern, Washington.  I boil them till soft and pass them through an old-fashioned potato ricer.  Then into a warm pan and stir with a spatula to dry out the water from the potatoes.  That's a Robuchon trick.  I don't add butter to the potatoes. 

 

Now for the salt cod, I use it from a little wooden box and yes, it's frozen.  I soak it two days in changes of water.  But you can't go from that stage to mashing it up.  Boil it in water for about 10 minutes and it will be fall apart flaky.  Then saute in some olive oil and I add a whole bay leaf. Then the cold mixture, including the bay leaf, into a food processor and pulse to break the salt cod down.  Now in goes the mashed potatoes and a good measure of hot milk and olive oil.  I use equal part milk and olive oil to get a creamy mixture. Then in go some chives and fresh rosemary, a few flakes of dried red pepper.  Then into the gratin dish, 375 oven about 30 minutes and broil until brown.

 

It's very good with some Spanish chorizo stirred in.  Dried chorizo, not the cheap runny chorizo.  Also good as a stuffing for whole fish.

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Here’s a long post for a simple recipe. But now that I’ve made a small batch of brandade with a stand mixer, I want to give it a BIG thumbs up and tell you why it’s so good.  If you want a super light and fluffy brandade, the stand mixer is your friend.

 

I began with a small piece of rehydrated salt cod, about 12 oz, cut into two pieces. Simmered for 5 minutes with a few cloves of garlic and bay leaf, rested off the heat for another 10 minutes, drained and cooled, broken into chunks. This was not a lot of salt cod!

 

With the paddle, I beat the cod and garlic on med-low speed until it broke up a bit, then raised the speed to high for a few minutes. Scraped down the sides and beat on high for another few minutes.  The results really did resemble those of the traditional mortal and pestle technique, which pulls the salt cod into long, fine shreds—more so than I’ve ever gotten using a food processor and my trusty wooden spoon. Here’s a close-up that hopefully shows what I mean:

 

IMG_0950.JPG

 

At this point, I slowly added the olive oil and warmed cream with the mixer at medium speed. The finely shredded cod holds the oil and cream well—here are before/after photos. You can see how the volume has increased, and I haven’t added the potato yet.

 

IMG_0953.JPG    IMG_0956.JPG

 

Finally, the potato, cooked and riced. A minute or two on low speed to mix and it was done. Tasted for salt, added pepper and chopped parsley. Scooped into individual gratin dishes, run under the broiler to brown.

 

Et voilà, the result:

 

IMG_0959.JPG

 

It was some of the best brandade I’ve made. Great texture. I’ll probably use the KitchenAid frequently now, though I may not always shred the salt cod quite so finely. I like some chunks, especially with fritters.

 

One comment on the Serious Eats recipe: it calls for a lot of olive oil--1¼ cups olive oil for 1 lb cod (half that if you don’t use potatoes)!  That high ratio is traditional but it’s too rich for me. I use a lot less. Though I didn’t measure, I’d guess I used a scant 1/2 cup olive oil with one medium potato. I use less cream too.  For anyone making brandade for the first time with this recipe, follow directions and adjust ratios to your own taste if you want. Brandade is pretty forgiving.

 

I can’t believe I never thought of using a stand mixer before. Many thanks to Cakewalk for sharing the Serious Eats article.

 

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Those photos are beautiful. This is really pushing me beyond the reading recipes stage, where I can linger for a very long time! Salt cod is foreign territory for me, but it looks so luscious. (I don't think I've ever tasted it, but that is easily remedied.) Thanks for that post.

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Cakewalk, I hope you'll try it. This recipe produces a very mild brandade--no chunks to give bursts of fishy flavor, and the high proportion of potato, oil, and cream smooths the fishiness too.

 

The only advice I'd add is not to overcook the cod. Most recipes call for too long a cooking time, imho.  It's delicate like any fish and overcooking makes it tough and inedible. If your pieces are big, cut them in 2-3 smaller pieces so the outside doesn;t overcook before the inside is done.  Don't bring it to a boil, just a simmer.  Once it looks like the fish is just begining to flake, take it off the heat and let it sit for a little while. Test a chunk after 5 minutes--it should be tender and flake easily but not be falling apart. If it' s still slightly translucent at the center, that's perfect, take it out of the water and it will finish cooking as it cools.

 

We'll look forward to seeing your results.

 

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The revival of the Stuffed Cabbage cook-off made me remember this recipe from Coleman Andrews’ Catalan Cuisine: Stuffed Cabbage with Salt Cod.

 

It’s pretty straightforward, blanched cabbage leaves filled with brandade—no potatoes, just salt cod, garlic-flavored olive oil, and cream.  Rather than a simple tomato sauce, he offers a sauce that uses dried (ancho) chile, roasted red pepper, and tomato. It’s got a deep, complex taste that holds up to the strong flavors of cabbage and salt cod. Slivered almonds for garnish.

 

IMG_0790.JPG

 

When I make this again, there are a few small things I’d do differently.

- Andrews calls for a smooth brandade, which makes the dish rather refined. I’d prefer to have some texture and pops of flavor that would come from a chunkier filling.

 

- The olive oil in the brandade is infused with garlic, but Andrews discards the garlic before adding it to the fish. I‘d leave some of the garlic in there, its flavor was really lost in the final dish.

 

- Also, the filled cabbage rolls were heated in the oven without the sauce.  It made for a prettier presentation, but I didn’t find the flavors really came together as they should.  When I reheated leftovers the next day in the sauce, I liked this recipe much better!

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I made some New England style salt cod cakes with the salt cod that I had leftover from @Panaderia Canadiense's Easter salt cod soup. They were well received! (the photo shows only the leftovers -  there was too much mayhem to take photos during the feast) 

14595514182941154309272.jpg

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1 hour ago, kbjesq said:

I made some New England style salt cod cakes with the salt cod that I had leftover from @Panaderia Canadiense's Easter salt cod soup. They were well received! (the photo shows only the leftovers -  there was too much mayhem to take photos during the feast) 

14595514182941154309272.jpg

 

Recipe?

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13 hours ago, kbjesq said:

I made some New England style salt cod cakes with the salt cod that I had leftover from @Panaderia Canadiense's Easter salt cod soup. They were well received! (the photo shows only the leftovers -  there was too much mayhem to take photos during the feast) 

14595514182941154309272.jpg

 

How did the soup go over?


Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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@kbjesq those cod cakes look delicious.  I love the leftovers for breakfast.

 

For anyone who didn't follow the fabulous food blog by @Panaderia Canadiense you should treat yourself and read it through.  The "soup" she and kbjesq mention is Fansesca, a soup featuring salt cod that's an Easter tradition in Equador.  PanCan gave us a lovely history and tutorial of Fanesca in her blog: eG Foodblog: Panaderia Canadiense - Salt Cod, Squash, and Sweets: Semana Santa in the Sierra

 

PanCan, I have every intention of giving it a try when I have a free weekend.  I hope your friend Fidelina won't mind that it's not during Easter.

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