So many times I would visit a cafe or friends in the early evening when I lived in the south of France and would be served Brandade and a glass of wine. It is substantial enough that it would often take the place of dinner.
When I started making it myself, I served it with small warm toasts and a bowl of tapenade. I would bring out an ice bucket with a bottle of rose chilling. Place the goblets. Pile some of the shiny black olives Nicoise into a bowl. And enjoy!.
It is one of those dishes that you need to use the highest quality ingredients. If not, it can quickly become simply some mashed potatoes to spread on bread. Using freshly snipped thyme, juicy fresh garlic, good cream, and especially good bread makes all the difference in the world.
Here in America I can buy salt cod in plastic bags or wooden crates in the supermarket. I take it out of the bag, cover the salt cod in water, and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight to soak.
The next day, when you are ready to serve it, begin to prepare it perhaps an hour ahead. You need time to cook the potatoes and mash them. Time to slice up a baguette, brush it with good olive oil, and bake in the oven until just golden (5 minutes on high heat). And you need about 10 minutes to warm the cream and garlic, then whip it all up into a fluffy mound. Serve your Brandade warm or at room temperature. And don’t forget the wine!
Brandade de Morue
Yield: Easily enough for 6
2 large potatoes
1 bag (or 1/2 pound) salt cod
7 large garlic cloves, peeled
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream
3 fresh thyme sprigs, plus 2 fresh sprigs for sprinkling on the top later
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1. Soak the salt cod overnight, just covered with water. Rinse off, drain well, and reserve.
2. Cook the potatoes until done, peel, and crumble into a large mixer bowl.
3. Heat the oven to 450 degrees, slice the baguette, place the slices on a baking sheet, slather with good olive oil, and when the oven is hot put the baking sheet in and bake until the toasts are barely golden.
4. Slice the garlic and add to the 1 cup of cream in a pot. Add in the clove and a few leaves of fresh thyme and bring to a simmer. Cook on low until the garlic is cooked and soft, 5-7 minutes. Puree in a food processor.
5. Put the cod in a pot with water and cook to a simmer then take off the heat, drain, and dry. You want the cod warmed up, but not cooked very much more.
6. Now to assemble. Begin beating the potatoes with 1/4 cup of the cream mixture. When it starts to look fluffy add in the rest of the cream mixture and the cod and mix well. Next, slowly add in the 1/4 cup olive oil, continuously beating, until the whole becomes fluffy. Add in a few more leaves of thyme, the lemon juice, beat, and taste for seasoning.
7. Mound the fluffy Brandade in a serving bowl, shower with more leaves of fresh thyme, and serve with the warm toasts from the oven.