“Non fare il baccalà” is an Italian way of telling someone, “Don’t be silly/stupid” — and I really don’t know why baccalà, aka salt cod, should be associated with lack of intelligence. But I do know that I love it and usually fry it as in fish and chips, or cook it in a saucepan with a tomato sauce and olives, or even grill it and serve it with polenta. Baccalà has a good strong taste of its own so adding prunes or raisins and even pine kernels can mellow this and/or make things even more interesting for the taste buds.
If you basically just boil baccalà and mush it up and add some tasty ‘bits’ and some olive oil, you also get a fabulous dip called ‘brandade’ or ‘mantecato di baccalà’. It’s nice served on toasted or crispy bread or served with boiled potatoes.
Here is a fillet of salt cod/baccalà with its skin still on … there’s the fish knife (the blade is bendy as opposed to rigid) for removing it.
Cut the fish fillet into three.
Lay the fish skin-down on the chopping board and remove the flesh away from the skin and then throw away the skin – you’ll be glad to, the skin is quite pungent. (However, you could allow the skin to dry and then fry it.)
If you overcook salt cod, it becomes tough and nasty. So the idea is to bring water to the boil and just gently simmer it for about 5 minutes. You could even use milk instead of water.
And here is the salt cod after it’s been drained:
To add a bit of southern comfort to my brandade today, I am going to add the sweetness of almonds … a good handful:
The almonds need to be crushed and for this I have a little kitchen toy that I really enjoy using … it’s also good for flaking chocolate …
I crank the handle and out comes of shower of chopped up almonds!
Measure out about 100 ml of milk.
Add about the same amount of olive oil, which in this case turned out to be the equivalent of 8 spoonfuls.
Pour the milk and olive oil into the bowl and use an electric mixer to achieve a smooth result. (I had tried with an electric whisk at first, as in this photo, but it didn’t work, and so I had to use a hand-held mixer.)
And here it is all nice and smooth … there is the chopped parsley and garlic on the right.
And here is the brandade … all it needs now is some salt and white pepper and it’s ready to be eaten.
A quenelle is a French word for any mushy food that is shaped by two spoons into a dumpling. Quenelles are not usually eaten on their own but are part of a dish, enrichening it.
Here is Elena shaping a quenelle of the mantecato di baccalà/brandade … the photo is not a very good one, I apologise, but I think it’s easy to get the gist of what’s going on. Just ignore on what’s at the front of the photo, and look at what Elena is doing with the two spoons.
This is part two of a dish using polenta, baccalà and spinach.
And now for part three …