Mrs. Harris, whom I’ve frequently mentioned in this blog, has an impeccable kitchen pedigree and boundless curiosity about all things food. Sniven’s talk of his grandmother’s Salt Cod dish was bait she couldn’t resist. After a false start a year or two ago she came as close as is humanly possible to recreating the original dish this this year, according to Sniven himself.
She kindly gave me the recipe she developed, and I present it to you here, with her comments included.
SALTCOD, sort of like Sniven’s grandmother made
This may or may not be the same dish that Sniven remembers from his
childhood – pedigree be damned — but it certainly stands on its own
merits. Dried, salted fish is an ancient method of preserving before the
days of electric refrigeration and appears in many countries – from Canada
to the Mediterranean and points east. Today, salt cod is a chi-chi item
instead of a staple but the status doesn’t change the flavor. There are
hundreds of alterations possible – from the garlic-tomato of Portugal to the
potato-cream version below. It can be peasant-ly lumpy or sieved to satin
smoothness; this is up to the cook. The single constant is the need to
soak the fish and change the water to remove some of the excess salt.
1 pound salt cod
½ very large onion, diced (or use a single “normal” onion)
4-5 cloves of smashed, peeled garlic
1-2 TBLS butter (amount depends on waistline and the desired richness)
½ C good Extra Virgin Olive Oil + Freshly ground pepper to taste
¼ C heavy cream +1 C milk
1 C mashed potatoes (use 1 peeled, diced Russet potato that has been steamed
if you don’t have some mashed potatoes handy. Sniven’s grandma used cubed
Freshly ground pepper to taste
12 hours before you want to cook, place cod in a bowl of water to cover
Let stand several hours
Drain & repeat three or four times to leach the salt from the fish
In a large saucepan, cover the fish with fresh water and poach for several
minutes, or until the fish just begins to separate
Remove fish from water and shred, discarding any bones, skin etc.
Meanwhile, melt butter in a saucepan and sweat the onion for 10 minutes
Add garlic and continue sweating until the garlic is soft but not browned
Add olive oil and cream; cook slowly until the onions are quite soft
Put fish into onion-cream mixture, add 1 C milk and cook slowly
Add potatoes, continue cooking
NOTE *** I usually transfer this to the microwave to finish cooking because I like the “no-stick” ability of cooking starchy foods in the micro, but it can certainly be finished on a burner or in the oven.
At some point, smash this all together – use a stick blender, food processor,
mixer, heavy-duty whisk or whatever you have.
Smash as little or as much as you want – the texture is your choice.
For a silky smooth puree, pass through a sieve.