A good preparation of salt cod

(Recipe #56, pages 137 – 138)

Ling is better than cod; a fish that is whitish but takes on a reddish tint when held up to daylight is the best. A pound of salt cod (dry) will feed 3 people.

To send cod to the table tender and looking attractive, follow these instructions. If you wish to cook the cod on Friday, you must begin to freshen it by early Tuesday morning at the latest. First cover it in water for ½ hour; then pound it with a wooden mallet—gently at first, then increasingly harder until it softens, but without pounding it to shreds. Then divide it into 3–4 equal pieces. To soften the fish, you can use either potash or soda, but the latter is preferable: not only is it cheaper, it is less likely to lend an unpleasant taste. The proper proportion is 1 ounce of pulverized soda per pound of salt cod.

Stack the pieces of cod sprinkled with soda in a stoneware crock and cover them generously with soft water; place the crock in a very cold place until Thursday morning, in other words 2 days and 2 nights (an unpleasant taste would develop in a warm kitchen). Then squeeze the water out of the pieces, scrape the scales from the skin and remove all other unwanted parts of the fish, cut the fins off, rinse the fish, and place the pieces in fresh water. The water must be changed three times before the next morning, and the pieces pressed dry each time.

To cook the cod, stack the pieces and wrap them in a cloth; 3 hours before serving, place them on a plate in a pot of cold soft water and set the pot on the stove. The cloth wrapper helps keep the pieces in better shape. Heat the water slowly at first, then more rapidly but without boiling in the slightest. To serve lay the cloth on a strainer, then place the pieces on a heated platter, sprinkle fine salt lengthwise over them, cover the platter, and place it on top of the warm pot until the potatoes are ready to serve.

One pound of salt cod (dry) requires sprinkling with 1 – 2 ounces of salt. If you want to salt it in its cooking water, pour off part of the water and add as much salt as necessary ¼ hour before serving.

As a sauce, most people generally prefer a generous helping of melted butter and good mustard, though less expensive sauces are also satisfactory. Besides Travemünde sauce, one option is to boil together water, a bit of milk, and fish broth, bind the sauce with a little cornstarch, and then stir in butter and mustard without further cooking.

Note: If more cod has been cooked than is eaten, the leftovers can be warmed in reserved broth. They can also be used in the following dish.

Translated by David Green.

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