Stockfish, a staple food for Vikings in their long voyages at sea, is now a pricey rarity. Wind-dried and cured by the salt of the Arctic sea breeze, saltwater fish and very good fish recipes, typically cod caught in the North Atlantic, is split and gutted and hung on wooden racks until they are dehydrated and have lost seventy to eighty percent of their moisture, preserving the fish for months and months on end up to several years. No salt or smoke, or any other ingredient is used to treat the fish, making it truly taste of the sea.
Brandade de morue, a dip made with salt-cured cod and olive oil, is the traditional Christmas Eve dish throughout France but particularly in olive-growing regions. It is typically eaten in the winter with potatoes and bread. In the version prepared in the upland villages of the Auvergne where the olive-tree can’t thrive, walnut oil is the traditional cooking-oil and wind-dried stockfish is preferred to salt-cured cod. In this recipe, stockfish is cooked a la brandade and served with tellines and tomatoes sautéed in butter, created a healthy dinner dish.
While cod is the most common fish used in making stockfish, other whitefish can also be used such as haddock, pollock, tusk, and ling. When cooking with stockfish, the dried fish has to be soaked in cold water first to rehydrate it. Soak it for at least four days in fresh water, changing the water daily and keeping it chilled at all times.
Ingredients: 1 stockfish (or haddock, 1.32 lbs.), 3 potatoes, 5 1/4 cups cream, 5 garlic cloves, 5 tomatoes
Prepare the fish and cut it into small pieces. Refrigerate. Peel and mince the potatoes. In a saucepan, heat olive oil and brown the garlic. Add the potatoes and brown them a little before adding the Provençal herbs and cream. Season with salt and pepper. Wash the tomatoes and remove their stems. Place tomatoes in boiling water for 10 seconds. Dunk them immediately in ice water and remove their skins. Cut them in half, remove the seeds, and cut into small squares. Sweat the onion and shallot by cooking them in a little butter. Add the tomatoes and tomato concentrate, season, and cook gently. Once the potatoes are cooked, remove them from the pot and drain. Cook the fish in the potato water. Drain the fish and blend it with the potatoes. Adjust the seasoning. When the brandade is ready, brown it slightly in a pan. Once the tomatoes are cooked, add some white fond (gravy) and butter. Season and stir. Heat the white wine, add opened tellines, and cover with a lid to cook. Place the brandade in the middle of the dish with the tomato butter around it. Arrange the tellines on the plate and serve hot.
For the tomato concentrate: white wine, 1.76 oz. tellines (mollusks resembling small clams), 2 shallots, 3 onions, Provençal herbs (dried savory, fennel, basil, and thyme), salt, pepper, olive oil, butter
What is fun about this recipe is that it can be served in the canter of the dinner table and guests can dip their toasted bread in the brandade or spread the mixture on the bread while enjoying a glass of simple white wine or cold beer. Ideal for intimate get-togethers with close friends or family, stockfish brandade with mouthwatering tellines or small clams from the Mediterranean and sweet tangy tomatoes is one of the things that make life truly worthwhile.