Salt Cod Potato Gratin is Rich and Satisfying

Salt Cod Potato Gratin is rich and satisfying with potatoes, a little cream and seasoned with bay leaves and thyme.
Salt Cod Potato Gratin is rich and satisfying with potatoes, a little cream and seasoned with bay leaves and thyme. 
The early winter of 1991 the Kennebecasis River froze as smooth as glass and for a short time there wasn’t even a fleck of snow so the skating was dreamlike. One early January afternoon dad and I, my brothers Geoffrey and Erik and I can’t remember who else, skated over to Ministers face and discovered that there was a fantastic echo when we hollered to one another. I suppose the sound was bouncing off the smooth ice as well as the rock face. My brother Erik, with his booming baritone voice, started to sing some operatic piece or another and his rich voice reverberated all around us.

There is good chance we came home to mom’s rich and comforting Salt Cod Potato Gratin...
The recipe arrived in our house somewhere around 1990, found in a cookbook called Bistro Cooking by Patricia Wells. It’s a cookbook inspired by small family restaurants in France and I was surprised to discover that salt cod, a staple of my childhood, is ubiquitous in the South of France too.
 
Mom’s fish cakes made with salt cod are the best I have ever tasted but this gratin recipe takes the humble salt cod to a whole new level. It’s rich and satisfying with potatoes, a little cream and seasoned with bay leaves and thyme. The cookbook author says it’s one of her favourite dishes of all time.

Salt Cod Potato Gratin

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb salt cod
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 lb. baking potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
Instructions:
  1. Place the salt cod in a pot of cold water and soak, covered in the fridge, overnight. Change the water a couple of times during the soaking period to remove excess salt. Drain and rinse the fish.
  2. Place cod in a large pan with cold water to cover. Bring to a simmer, remove the pan from the heat, cover and let rest for 15 minutes. Remove bones and tear fish into bite-sized pieces.
  3. In a large saucepan combine the milk, thyme and bay leaves and bring to a simmer. Add potatoes to the seasoned milk and simmer until potatoes are tender. Remove from heat and remove bay leaves.
  4. In a small bowl whisk the egg yolks and cream or yogurt and stir into the potato mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Rub the inside of a medium gratin or baking dish with 1 Tbsp. of the butter and spread over the garlic. Spoon half of the potato mixture in the dish, followed by the cod and top with the remaining potato mixture. Dot with remaining 2 Tbsp. of butter and bake at 350 F until golden, about 45 min.
  6. Serve hot with a salad.

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