Brandade is a dish made primarily of salt cod and olive oil. The two ingredients are blended together to make a thick paste with a texture similar to whipped potatoes. The dish is a traditional item in several Western European cuisines, especially France, although each specific country or region may add extra ingredients to the base recipe.
The process of making brandade typically begins with preparing the salt cod for use. Salt cod is cod, a whitefish with a flaky texture, that has been preserved by being stored in salt for several weeks before being dehydrated and packaged. To be used for cooking, salt cod needs to be soaked in cold water for an extended period of time in order to remove the excessive salt used for preservation and to re-hydrate the dried fish. The fish is generally placed in a bowl of cold water and stored in a refrigerator for one to two days before being used.
Once the salt cod is prepared, the bones and skin are removed and the flesh is cut into pieces. Olive oil is usually heated in a heavy-bottomed pan on the stovetop until it is hot, then the salt cod pieces are added to the hot oil. To get the salt cod to soften into a puree-like texture, it is gently stirred until it becomes hot enough to lightly melt into the oil. Continuous stirring of the fish and oil is typically recommended in order to make the mixture as smooth as possible. When the dish has reached the desired consistency, it is generally served hot with bread or potatoes as an accompanying side dish.
Some recipes for brandade call for adding milk or heavy cream into the cooked salt cod and olive oil mixture. This produces a creamier texture for the final dish. The milk or cream version is often used in French cuisine. Spanish versions of the dish may include chopped tomatoes or artichokes mixed into the salt cod once it has finished cooking. Crushed garlic may also be added to make the dish more flavorful. Other possible variations by home cooks include adding cooked potato puree, chestnuts, or croutons.
Modern chefs may also make variations of the dish by using other types of fish or cooking methods. Salt cod is not readily available throughout the world, so some chefs may substitute other flaky fish, such as trout, in place of the cod. Spoonfuls of the fish and olive oil mixture may also be coated in egg and breadcrumbs and fried to make brandade fritters.