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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Cod, the Fish; from Rags to Riches in France. A guest post by Leonhard Becker. –

A dish created for cod, a fish that has gone upmarket.
A guest post by Leonhard Becker.
French inspired recipes and techniques.
Photograph courtesy of the Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs.
Cod is found on modern French and other European menus as fresh fish and also when rehydrated and desalted. Cod used to be considered an inexpensive fish and from the 16th through 19th centuries cod was a source of wars over fishing rights, and the right to supply dehydrated and salted cod for the European slave trade.  Everywhere cod was a fish for poor people, and in the UK, from the latter part of the 19th century and until today cod is the back-bone of the famous British fish and chips industry.


A fish and chips sign in Brighton, England.
Photograph courtesy of Anosmia.
Cod, the fish on French menus.
When fresh the French call cod cabillaud or morue fraîche; and when on the menu in a dish made from rehydrated cod called morue or stockfish. The versatility of this Atlantic fish shows up throughout Europe, and rehydrated cod is the same fish the Italians call baccalà or bacalao. 

Dehydrated salt cod drying in Henningsvær,
an island fishing village in Northern Norway.
Reconstituted dehydrated cod will be on French menus as morue or stockfish.
Photograph courtesy of  Nicolas Grevet.
Cod has won recognition of its distinct, but delicate taste and texture, and that has led to its appearance on more and more menus of fashionable French restaurants. No doubt price increases, due to scarcity, have also played their part in promoting this trend.

The French influence.


New Salt-Cod Brandade
Photograph by Leonhard Becker.

The creation of a new cod dish.
My modern French interpretation, pictured above, illustrates the versatility of cod. This dish is based on a Cordon Bleu Paris recipe and shows cod steaks poached in milk served on a garlic sauce; next to the steak is cod served as purée, on its own called a brandade, but here prepared inside a brick pastry roll, and finally for  the last part of the dish are golden cod croquettes. This dish I prepared using fresh cod, salted for 30 minutes; however, brandade of cod and cod croquettes are usually prepared using reconstituted salted cod.
This dish not only show-cases the versatility of cod but also embodies the traditional French approach where a meal is to be enjoyed using all your senses. While the greatest importance is given to the taste of the dish, the French way also requires that the diner appreciate the presentation, and that means creating a combination of colors and shapes. A successful dish allows the diner to engage the scent of the different elements, as well as to feel the textures of each part; the diner may listen to the crack of the crunchy elements or the sizzle that proverbially "sells the steak".
Leonhard trained as an economist in Switzerland and England and began a classical banking career after completing university. After five interesting years,  he quit to pursue his childhood dream to become a chef and went to study French haute cuisine at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. After his graduation, he continues to push the envelope by facing new challenges including cooking for large groups of friends and experimenting with new dishes. He refuses to cook for money but strives to share his adventures on his blog
Leonhard Becker
A guest post on the blog
Behind the French Menu by Bryan G Newman.
Copyright of Leonard Becker 2013

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