Jan 5, 2015

Brandacujùn ~ Ligurian brandade

Image © ristocasaebottega.it
Brandade is a fancy French word for pureed salt cod. Originally the cheapest ingredient around, poached and deboned salt cod that's been reduced to a pulp, often combined with potatoes pushed through a ricer and stirred with olive oil and garlic, is probably one of winter's best comfort foods. And despite its humble origin, with the culinary adroitness of the French, the concept behind this dish has been refined since its inception into a fine (and costly) delicacy.

The birthplace of this preparation is however disputed. Some say Nîmes in France is the world capital of brandade, while others in the Veneto region maintain "baccalà mantecato" came first. But my Ligurian friends declare their "brandacujùn", made with dried cod instead of salt cod, is the culinary ancestor of this delightful recipe.

Whatever the genesis, I love the pillowy combination of cod and potatoes, and enjoy it often smeared on crusty bread that's been generously rubbed with garlic. The flavor is delicate and the texture creamy, and I serve it to those guests who are worried about fish tasting too... "fishy".

dried cod from Lofoten Islands, Norway
The problem is I make way too much of it. When purchasing dried cod, it's never possible to just buy a small amount, the darn planks are huge! And so I end up making ginormous quantities and am left with lots of brandade leftovers. A great way of recycling leftover brandade is making my son's favorite croquettes, which I roll in small bullets, dredge in breadcrumbs and quickly fry in vegetable oil.

But before we talk leftovers, here's how to make easy brandade from scratch:

1kg (2.2 lbs) dried cod (I buy the Norwegian "Ragno" variety), soaked and rinsed until fully revived
1kg (2.2 lbs) peeled potatoes
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
a pinch of nutmeg (optional)

Cover the cod in unsalted water and boil for 30 minutes. Lift out of the pot and allow it to cool before deboning, but save the cooking water for the potatoes.
Boil the potatoes in the cod water and when they are fork soft, add them to the deboned cod.

Now you can proceed in two ways: a quick and easy one, or the original method, which is more labor intensive.

Easy method (the one I use): Coarsely blend everything in a stand mixer, adding the minced garlic while pouring the olive oil, and finishing with a lashing of pepper and seasoning with salt at the very end if necessary.

Original method: Cover the pot and, armed with hefty kitchen towels and good muscles, shake the pot (the French term 'brandade' and the verb "to brandish" share the same root) until the ingredients are reduced to a soft emulsion!

Stay tuned for the leftover recycling recipe!


  1. Replies
    1. ...and tastes even better! thanks for your comment :)

  2. Ciao Eleonora, A good friend of mine sent me a link to your post. She found it strange that she got two baccala recipes in one week that was made in a similar way. From my blog and from yours. My mamma never put potatoes in it and I made it the way she did it -- the Venetian style. I am Italian born but I've been in the states since I was very small. I'm hoping to visit you often. Alla prossima

    1. Ciao Marisa! Thank you for stopping by and leaving your kind comment. I guess we're in cod-sync LOL. There's always a cod dish being made around Christmas in my household. I know Venetian-style is without potatoes, and the rubbing of the revived dried cod to produce the desired texture is an art form! So good. I miss Venice so much.
      Now you have me thinking of liver and onions and sarde in saor... Will stop by your blog asap and smell what's cooking in your kitchen.

  3. Wishing you a very Happy New Year . . . . . :) x

  4. I love both brandade and baccalà mantecato. I'm sure I'd enjoy this, too! Intrigued by the pinch of nutmeg...

    1. Eeeehhhh the nutmeg is my trick... I always add some to potato mash, so why not here too?

  5. Thank you for leaving your kind comment. Exactly what do you mean by 'scanning' all the food I've posted?
    Also, please, avoid leaving links, thanks :)