Why It Works
- Using a stand mixer with the paddle mimics the old-fashioned way of making brandade by beating it in a mortar and pestle, resulting in a spread with more texture than what a food processor delivers.
- A long 24-hour soak in several changes of water guarantees that the salt cod won't be too salty.
This rich Mediterranean spread, known as brandade in France, baccalà mantecato in Italy, and brandada in Spain, is made by whipping salt cod with olive oil and half-and-half until smooth and creamy. Fold in mashed potatoes for a milder version, or use pure fish for a more toothsome texture.
- 1 pound salt cod
- 1/2 pound whole russet potatoes (about 2 medium potatoes; see note)
- 5 medium whole cloves garlic, plus 2 optional minced medium cloves garlic, divided (see note)
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 1/4 cups extra-virgin olive oil (or 3/4 cup if no potato)
- 1/2 cup half-and-half (or 1/4 cup if no potato)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves and tender stems (optional)
- Zest of 1/2 lemon (optional)
- Crackers or baguette toasts, for serving
Rinse salt cod under cold running water until any salt on its surface is washed away. Transfer to a large container (cut the salt cod into smaller pieces if it doesn't fit whole) and cover with fresh water. Refrigerate for 24 hours, changing the water several times during that period.
Bake potatoes in a 350°F oven until easily pierced with a fork, about 1 hour. Alternatively, put potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover with cold unsalted water; set over medium-high heat, bring to a simmer, and cook until easily pierced with a fork, about 45 minutes. Split potatoes lengthwise, scoop flesh from potato skins, and mash using a food mill, ricer, or potato masher. Set aside.
Meanwhile, drain salt cod and place in a medium saucepan. Cover with cold unsalted water and add 5 whole cloves garlic, thyme, and bay leaf. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, then remove from heat and let stand in cooking liquid for 20 minutes.
Drain salt cod, reserving garlic; discard thyme and bay leaf. Flake salt cod, discarding any bones and silvery membranes.
Transfer salt cod and reserved cooked garlic to a stand mixer fitted with the paddle; add remaining 2 minced garlic cloves for a more intense garlic flavor. With the mixer running at medium-high speed, drizzle in the olive oil until fully incorporated. Then drizzle in half-and-half until fully incorporated.
Add mashed potatoes and whip just long enough to fully incorporate. Season with salt and pepper, and mix in optional flavorings, like minced parsley or lemon zest, if using.
Serve the brandade at room temperature with crackers or baguette toasts, or serve it warm and browned on top by transferring to an oven-safe baking dish or gratin dish and baking at 350°F for 10 minutes; then broil until browned on top, about 3 minutes.
Stand mixer; food mill, ricer, or potato masher
Potato is a common, but optional, ingredient in this spread. Using it creates brandade with a milder flavor and softer, creamier texture; it also yields a greater quantity of brandade by acting as a filler. If you decide to omit it in favor of a brandade with a more assertive salt-cod flavor and toothsome bite, cut the olive oil down to 3/4 cup and the half-and-half to 1/4 cup. The cooked garlic adds a mellow flavor to the brandade, but you can punch it up by adding 2 minced raw cloves during the whipping step.