Salt Cod Crostini
  • 1 pound salt cod fillet
  • 3⁄4 cup olive oil, plus more for brushing crostini
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 cup milk
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 baguette, sliced diagonally 1⁄4 inch thick
Time Estimates

Prep time: 30 min  

Cook time: 25 min  

Total time: 55 min  


  1. At least two days ahead, rinse the fish and cut it into manageable pieces (it may be necessary to let it soak briefly before cutting).
  2. Place the pieces in a glass or other nonreactive dish and cover with cold water.
  3. Soak the fish for 24 to 36 hours in the refrigerator, changing the water several times a day.
  4. When you’re ready to serve the fish, drain it and place it in a skillet with cold water to cover.
  5. Bring slowly to a simmer and poach until the fish flakes.
  6. Drain and transfer to a cutting board.
  7. Remove and discard any skin and bones, pulling the fish apart into flakes and inspecting it carefully for small bones.
  8. Warm half the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat.
  9. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the fish and cook 5 minutes, stirring and mashing it with a wooden spoon until it is reduced to small pieces.
  10. Transfer the contents of the skillet to a mixing bowl and beat on medium speed until the fish is broken up into fine shreds.
  11. Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in the skillet and bring the milk just to a boil in a small saucepan.
  12. With the mixer running on low speed, alternately add hot oil and hot milk to the purée, allowing a few seconds for each addition to be fully absorbed. (Transferring the oil and milk to heatproof measuring cups with pouring spouts will make the job easier.)
  13. Continue adding oil and milk until the mixture reaches a creamy, spreadable consistency (you may not need all the oil and milk).
  14. Season to taste with pepper and nutmeg; if the fish has been thoroughly desalted, some salt may also be needed.
  15. Serve warm, or refrigerate and reheat slowly in a double boiler to serve.
  16. Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
  17. Brush the baguette slices lightly with olive oil, or spray with a mister filled with olive oil, and place them on a baking sheet.
  18. Toast in the oven until lightly browned.
  19. Let cool or serve warm from the oven, spread with a little brandade.


Serves 6 to 8 as an appetizer


Norwegian-style stockfish will also work, if it is easier to come by than salt cod. Because it has no salt, stockfish is much drier and should be given several days longer to rehydrate (up to a week is typical in Norway).

Good to know

One of the oldest commodities traded between southern and northern Europe is dried cod from the cold waters of the North Atlantic. Viking traders had already been shipping air-dried cod (stockfisk) to the Mediterranean for centuries before Portuguese and Basque fishermen began to cross the Atlantic to the rich cod grounds off New England and Newfoundland. Using the salt they brought with them (a scarce commodity in the north, which is why the Norwegians developed their air-dried version), the Iberian fishermen split and salted their catch to preserve it for the trip home. Bacalao, bacalhau, or baccalá, as salt cod is known in Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian respectively, remains a favorite traditional food in many Mediterranean countries, although some prefer the unsalted Nordic version.

Probably the best introduction to salt cod is in the French brandade de morue, a warm purée enriched with milk and olive oil. Because it is so rich, a little brandade goes a long way, spread on plain crackers or toasted slices of bread.

Brandade is traditionally mixed by hand in the skillet, but an electric mixer (either the stand type or hand-held) does the job much more easily. A food processor is less suitable, as it purées everything too far and too fast.

Note that you need to start the brandade two days before you plan to serve it.

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From The Microbrew Lover’s Cookbook, Copyright © 2002 by Jay Harlow. Used by arrangement with Jay Harlow.

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