Cod brandada from Catalonia is a traditional fish spread made with cod, olive oil, garlic and milk, with the most Mediterranean flavors.
By Miriam Garcia
Cod brandada is a kind of fishy, flaky and garlicky mayonnaise, a mixture where the gelatin in the cod fish is used to whip up an emulsion of olive oil and milk, yielding a whitish slightly chunky purée. Nowadays the northeastern region of Catalonia shares a border with France, but in the Middle Ages the county of Roussillon, just north of the Pyrenees, also belonged to the Crown of Aragon. This is to explain that because of a common history the cuisines of both sides of the present border have many dishes in common, and brandada de bacallá (in Catalan) or brandade de morue (in French) is just one of the many possible examples. And a delicious one, by the way.
As any emulsified food, brandada can be a bit tricky to make, as the oil can separate. But it’s not trickier than homemade mayonnaise. Because of this “trickiness” potato is often added, which aids in binding everything together. So who are you? The bold cook who makes brandada without the potato or the faint-hearted who adds potato? Let’s find out…
- 0.9 pounds (400g) salted or fresh cod
- ⅓ cup (75g) milk
- 1¾ cup (400g) extra virgin olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 good pinch nutmeg
- 1 good pinch pepper
- If you use salted cod, you know you need to desalt it first. Soaking it in water at least 12 hours, changing the water at least twice should suffice. Drain it in a colander and set aside.
- Place the cod in a bowl with the milk and heat it in the microwave, just 2 or 3 minutes on high, until barely cooked. Drain the fish and keep the milk for later. Leave to cool, remove the skin and bones and flake it. Set aside.
- Peel the garlic and mash it. Pour 6 tablespoons of the olive oil in a skillet and heat. Add the garlic and stir-fry lightly on low heat, don't let it brown. Then, while keeping the heat low, add the fish and stir continuously with a wooden spoon, mashing and mixing, until all the oil is absorbed. At this point you can use a hand food processor to make the purée smoother, if you have one.
- From then on, start adding the rest of the olive oil (previously heated) and the reserved milk (also warm) little by little, one spoonful of olive oil per half spoonful of milk, alway stirring (or mixing on very low speed) and adding the next spoonful only when the previous one has been absorbed by the mixture, until all the milk and the olive oil are finished.
- Place in a bowl and serve at ambient temperature.
The flavors of the fish, the garlic and the olive oil marry beautifully in this Catalan cod brandada… For a succulent tapa, spread the brandada on small bread toasts and grill so that the tops brown lightly. Brandada is very often served with black olives too.