Sunday Supper

For brandade, you’ll need to start soaking cod a day ahead

Brandade (Baked Salt Cod)
Brandade (Baked Salt Cod)
Frpm Jose Garces' 'The Latin Road Home' / Jason Varney

Main dish

Brandade (Baked Salt Cod with Herbed Breadcrumbs)

This recipe can be served as an appetizer or as a main course accompanied by a green salad. A bright, dry Riesling from Washington State is a good match for this rich fish dish.

1 1/2 pound boneless, skinless salt cod

For the breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup finely ground panko breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme

Kosher salt

For the brandade

1 large (12-oz) russet potato, peeled and diced small

2 cups heavy cream or whole milk

1 fresh bay leaf

1 sprig rosemary

1 cup caramelized onions (slice one large onion very thin, season with salt and saute in 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil until deep brown, about 18 minutes)

16 cloves roasted garlic (wrap a whole head of garlic in foil and roast at 350 degrees for 1 hour)

Sliced baguette, buttered or brushed with olive oil and toasted, for serving

To prepare the cod, soak it in a covered container in the refrigerator for 24 hours, changing the water at least once. Drain the fish, rinse thoroughly, drain again, and cut into large chunks.

To make the breadcrumbs, melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the panko. Toast, stirring often, until the panko is golden brown and evenly toasted, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the parsley and thyme and season gently with salt. Allow the breadcrumbs to cool to room temperature. If necessary, store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks.

Place a rack in the middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Boil the salt cod in water to cover in a saucepan until the chunks of fish are easy to flake into smaller pieces with a fork but remain somewhat firm, about 20 minutes. Drain.

To make the brandade, in a separate small saucepan combine the potatoes, cream, bay leaf, and rosemary. Simmer over low heat until the potatoes are tender and the mixture has reduced in volume by about a third, 10 to 12 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf and the rosemary stem (the leaves will have fallen off). Drain the potatoes over a bowl to retain the cream. While the potatoes are still warm, combine them in a food processor with the cod, onion, and garlic and purée the mixture, slowly adding the reserved cream, until it is very smooth.

Transfer the brandade to a shallow casserole and top with breadcrumbs. Bake until it is hot all the way through and the top is golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Serve with sliced baguette. Makes 4 servings.

Source: Adapted from Jose Garces’ The Latin Road Home (Lake Isle Press, $35).

Per serving: 695 calories (66 percent from fat), 51 g fat (32 g saturated, 15 g monounsaturated), 244 mg cholesterol, 32 g protein, 26 g carbohydrates, 1.4 g fiber, 3084 mg sodium.

Slabs of stiff, dried salted cod displayed in markets around South Florida have always intrigued me, but it wasn’t until recently that I decided to try my hand at cooking this delicacy.

There are hundreds of bacalao,([bah-kah-LAH-oh) recipes that span the globe from Portugal, Spain, Italy, and France, to Newfoundland, Latin America and Brazil (where it’s called bacalhau). Centuries ago Basque fishermen discovered they could salt and dry their fish to preserve it for the long journey home. Now, it’s a taste sought after by food lovers.

Cooking bacalao can’t be spontaneous because first the dried cod needs to be rinsed and soaked in water for at least 24 hours under refrigeration. The water needs to be changed every six hours or so. Brands of salt cod can vary in their degree of saltiness so while 24 hours may be adequate for some, a 36-hour soak will be necessary for others.

To test the cod, simply taste a small piece after one day — it should be pleasingly salty but not overwhelming. If it is still too salty, place it back in the bath. After soaking, the fish swells up to the size it was when it was fresh and has a delicate taste, firm texture and fresh aroma. Poaching the bacalao in water or milk is usually the next step.

Bacalao is sold packaged by the pound, frequently in a box, or as a piece cut from a whole fish. The packaged fish is usually boneless while pieces from the whole fish may be quite bony. In Spain, bacalao is commonly baked with potatoes; in Portugal and Brazil it’s pureed and made into a popular fritter; Italians simmer it in milk; and in French and Basque cuisines it’s whipped with potatoes into a dish called brandade.

Carole Kotkin is manager of the Ocean Reef Club cooking school and co-author of “Mmmmiami: Tempting Tropical Tastes for Home Cooks Everywhere.”

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