For one, the salt cod was unsustainable. I come from Newfoundland, a Canadian province that knows all about the overfished cod. So I would never buy the giant sheets of the salted stuff from Portuguese markets in Toronto.
I also knew that there was a bunch of dairy in this dish. And I thought for some reason there was soaked bread in it. There’s not. (Note: some recipes call for mashed potatoes as a thickener/filler, but it depends on where the recipe originates). There is generally, however, milk or cream. But just a little, which is completely replaceable.
Then one day, I heard that Northern cod stocks were on the rise. This doesn’t mean we should all go eat as much cod as we want again (we know how that story ends…), but I felt like it was time to make one of the classics.
Not that this is a classic version. The recipe comes from Scottish Highland Hospitality, cookbook my dad picked up for me in Scotland on a golf trip. I made this for his annual Master’s Potluck. If you don’t know what the Master’s are, well, you’re maybe better off. Needless to say, this was a good use of the book. It felt like closing by return.
The non-classic elements of this recipe are the fact that it calls for ling cod and that it gets wrapped in smoked salmon instead of broiled. And while the picture of the plated dish in the cookbook is of a lovely slice of non-crumbly brandade, that was clearly not the case with mine.
Still, it was delicious. And much less work than I thought it would be. Also, much more delicious.
Dairy Free Cod Brandade
Adapted from Scottish Highland Hospitality
This recipe calls for you to salt ling cod and then wash it off, which feels counter-productive and inefficient – two of my least favourite things. So if you have access to salt cod, use that. If not, buy fresh cod, haddock, hake or ling cod and completely coat it with sea salt for 24 hours. Then proceed as below.
450 g salt cod
175 g smoked salmon (wild Pacific, please, for sustainability reasons)
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
50 g shallots, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
55 ml white wine
1 tbsp coconut cream
1 tsp chopped fresh chives
1 tsp chopped fresh parsley
Lemon wedges, for garnish
Soak the cod in a bunch of cold water so it’s completely covered for 24 hours. Change the water after 12 hours. Line a loaf pan or terrine dish with plastic wrap and spread about 3/4 of the smoked salmon along the bottom of the dish so the edges drape over the sides. You’ll end up folding these over the top of the terrine.
Drain the salt cod, and combine it in a large pot with more fresh cold water. Bring it to a boil and simmer it for 10 minutes.
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and add the shallots and garlic. Cook until soft and translucent. Be patient. When soft, add the white wine and cook for 4-5 minutes. Transfer to a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.
Add the drained poached fish. Blend until you get a smooth consistency. Heat the coconut cream and remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a small pan. Bring to a boil, then add to the cod. Blend one more time, then remove the cod to a bowl and stir in the chives and parsley. Fill the terrine with the mixture then fold the smoked salmon edges over top. Use the remaining pieces of smoked salmon to fill in any empty spaces on top of the terrine, but don’t worry if it’s not perfect because you’re going to flip it upside down anyway. Don’t fold over the plastic wrap or you’ll end up eating plastic wrap.
Serve immediately or refrigerate and serve cold. To serve, invert the plastic wrap onto a bed of greens (I clearly ignored this last part about the greens) and garnish with lemon wedges. Theoretically this should cut into pretty slices, but you need a very sharp knife and you need to have pressed down very hard on the cod mixture when you stuffed it into the terrine. I didn’t (see photo above). You can also broil it if you invert it onto a baking sheet.
Either way, it’ll taste good. Serve with (gluten free) bread (and snow crab legs, if you’d like).