Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Creamed Codfish with your choice of base (i.e., yummy white goo)

This is one of those love-it-or-hate-it dishes. Quite literally: half my family loves it, and the other half hates it. I love it. My dad loves it. My husband loves it. My gramma loves it. Several of my aunts and uncles hate it. But since I'm not feeding them, who cares. :)

Salt cod is one of those funny things: it looks weird, and smells more than strange, but, with that alchemy of food that never fails to surprise me, makes the most delicious things. Plus, it's fairly cheap, and keeps forever, so it's easy to prepare.

If the idea of salt cod doesn't immediately turn you off, give it a try. It is an incredibly satisfying, filling, warming goo. You'll get something similar to brandade if you substitute olive oil for the butter, puree it until smooth, and optionally add some garlic. (Although the internets tell me that "real" brandade doesn't have garlic.)

Serve on top of mashed potatoes. (The smoothness is your call: I like mine lumpy, my husband swears by whipped.) Alternatively, cauliflower puree makes a lighter, sweeter base.

I meant to take some pictures of this dish, but it was so good, we ate it before I could get around to it. Instead, here is a photo of my gramma, Peg Donnelly, who gave me this recipe.

(That's her in the foreground; is she a looker, or what?)

Creamed Codfish
Serves 2 to 4, depending on how hungry you are


Salt Cod:
1lb salt cod (bacalao)
2 tbsp butter
2 tpsb flour
1/2 to 1 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste (lots of pepper!)

Goo Base:

1 lb potatoes (whichever variety you like best, peeled or just scrubbed) or cauliflower (fresh or frozen)
2 Tbs butter
1/4 to 1/2 cup cream, to produce the desired texture (more for potatoes, less for cauliflower. Milk may be substituted in the potato version only)
salt and pepper to taste

The night before you want to serve this dish, cover the salt cod in water, with about 2 inches extra. In the morning, drain the water and cover again. If you have time, drain, cover, and soak a third time when you get home from work.

Prepare the goo base: cut the potatoes into pieces about 1" cube, or cut the cauliflower into florets. Cover with cold water and sprinkle with salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat down to medium and simmer until tender. Drain, then add the butter and cream/milk and mash or puree. Salt and pepper to taste.

Prepare the white sauce: melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour, and cook until it releases a cooked, nutty smell. Add cream/milk, and cook, stirring, until thickened. (It should be about the same thickness as a good marinara sauce.)

Cook the cod: drain the cod a final time and cover with water, with at least 2 inches extra. Bring to a boil over high heat, then turn heat to medium and simmer until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Drain, and allow to cool until it easy to handle. Flake with a fork or your fingers, checking for and removing any bones. Add fish to the white sauce, and warm over low heat until nice and hot.

Serve on top of mashed potatoes or cauliflower puree. Salt and pepper to taste, but don't be shy about the pepper!

A sauvignon blanc would cut through the fishy flavor, while the full body of a chardonnay (I prefer unoaked) would complement the richness of the cream base.

(update 12/08)
Seafood Watch:
(Note: the rating only applies to seafood purchased in the US. Readers from other countries may want to try the Seafood Choices Alliance)

Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Score: Avoid for Atlantic Cod. Pacific Cod is a Good Alternative if trawl-fished, or a Best Choice if caught on longlines.