Salt Cod for Breakfast

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As you might remember from my post, simply called salt cod, I’ve been on a mission to find this fish for years. I have spotted it on a few websites, but the shipping was always horrendous, so I never followed through with an online order.

My daughter who lives in London assured me that she could purchase salt cod at a Portuguese Market. So just before coming home for a summer visit a couple years ago, she did just that. I repeat the word, SUMMER. I picked her up at the airport in the city. Then we went out to lunch and did some shopping…. all the while forgetting about the salt cod in her suitcase. Well, that was a lesson learned. Do not ever leave salt cod in a hot car!

But now I finally have my hands on some salt cod after years of searching, thanks to Whole Foods. This recipe is an attempt to duplicate a dish my mother made years ago. I’m not sure about the specifics of it, but I think I remembered all of the major components. So here’s my version:

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Salt Cod and Poached Egg with White Sauce and Capers
Serves 4

1/2 stick butter
1 onion, sliced
3 small red potatoes, cut into 3/4″ cubes
10 – 12 ounces pre-soaked salt cod, cut into pieces
1/4 cup half and half
4 poached eggs

White sauce:
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
1 3/4 cups half and half
Capers

Heat the butter in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the onion and potatoes, and sauté them for about 10 minutes. They should be nicely caramelized.

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Push the pieces of cod under the potatoes and onions, then pour the half and half over the top. Make sure the mixture is boiling, then cover the skillet and turn down the heat to the lowest position. Cook for 20 minutes without disturbing it.

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After cooking, the mixture will look like this:

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To make the white sauce, melt 1/2 stick butter in a pan over medium heat. When it has completely melted, add the flour and whisk them both together well. Then pour in the half and half, whisking all the while, and continue mixing until it thickens. See white sauce if you’ve never made one.

f you like, season the sauce with black or white pepper, but don’t add salt. Remove from the stove but leave the whisk in the white sauce.

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To prepare the individual servings, divide the salt cod and potato mixture between four bowls and gently add the poached egg. Give the white sauce a whisk, add a generous amount, then top with some capers.

Hair of the Dog Breakfast

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Not that I would ever need a hair-of-the-dog kind of breakfast (!) but this is it for me if I was ever in need of one. What’s better than eggs, liver, onions, and all of that topped off with a bloody mary?!!!

Now I promised there would be at least one liver post in 2013, and this is it. I happen to be a fan. Maybe some of you should give it a try, after all, it’s really inexpensive!

I think liver and eggs are the only reasons I made it out of college alive, because they were all I could afford. Eggs were cheap, and a carton of beef liver cost under a dollar and could stretch me three meals. (This was back in the 70’s.)

These days, eggs are a little more expensive, but liver is still cheap.

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I prefer beef liver with my eggs, as opposed to chicken liver, which I use only to make pâté. I prefer the texture of beef liver, and the servings are good-sized. So here’s what I did the morning after my last holiday hurrah:

Liver and Eggs
Serves 2

3 tablespoons butter
1 onion, halved, then sliced
2 tablespoons butter
2 “slabs” beef liver, blotted dry on paper towels
2 eggs, or 4, if you prefer

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the onions until they are nice and brown, about five minutes; place them in a bowl and keep warm.

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Heat 2 more tablespoons of butter in the same skillet and cook 2 slices of liver. Give them at least a minute on one side, then turn them over. I usually turn down the heat slightly and cook a little more on the second side. I like mine rare, but I don’t want the liver too seared on the outsides, with raw insides.

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Remove the liver to a plate, and then cook the eggs; there should be enough butter in the skillet to cook them. If not, add a little more butter.

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To serve, place a liver slice on a plate, put your cooked egg next to it, and top everything with the onions. Don’t forget the bloody mary!

Salt Cod

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Salt cod has been very difficult for me to find, especially since I live in the landlocked middle of the United States. But I’ve been on a mission for find it because I have such great memories of the ways my mother used to cook with it. We lived in Seattle for three years when I was growing up, and I’m guessing because of the abundance of cod in Puget Sound, that salt cod was more prevalent there as well.

As a child I remember loving the little wooden box that it came in – the top slid in and out and it was just so cute. Unfortunately, I could never quite get rid of the nasty fishy smell, so the cute box never remained in my possession for long…

But those were really my only memories, except for the divine way my mother served the salt cod with a white sauce, topped with a few capers. I really wanted to attempt to duplicate this and a couple of other recipes. I’ve always loved fish, but I’ve been obsessed with playing in the kitchen with salt cod. There’s just something different about it!

For any of you not familiar with salt cod, it’s simply filets of cod that have been preserved in salt – a remnant preservation technique from the old days. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever find it, especially since we don’t have problems like lack of refrigeration these days. But then I came across salt cod at a Whole Foods store! It still exists! And it was in the little wooden boxes that I remember! I hurriedly grabbed a couple like it was a popular children’s toy at Christmas, and excitedly brought the salt cod home to start planning recipes.

When you first open up the box and unwrap the cod, you won’t be very impressed with it at all. The cod is salted and then dried, so it looks like dried up salty fish!

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What you have to do is soak it in cold water for at least two days, replenishing the water a couple of times a day. Otherwise, the cod will be too salty, and not in a good salty way.

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After the two days are up, it’s time for one final rinse, then dry on paper towels, and choose a recipe. Recipes are easy to find, especially if you look into Portuguese recipes, in which case it’s called bacalao, or Italian recipes, which is baccalà. But I’ll post a few salt cod recipes, as well! Watch for future posts!

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Cranberry Vodka

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I’ve made cranberry liqueur before – I mean, you have to for the holidays. It’s so pretty! But, I’ve never made a cranberry vodka before. And, I’ve never used cooked cranberries in a liqueur, either. So when I saw this recipe, I knew I had to try it.

The recipe belongs to Michael Chiarello, and I found it on http://www.foodnetwork.com. So here’s the recipe, although I’m going to type it up differently, because there’s a definitely mistake in it:

Cranberry Vodka

1 pound cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I used the bean, split, with the seeds removed)
1 bottle of vodka (his recipe says 1 bottle of tonic!)

Place the cranberries, sugar and vanilla in a medium saucepan. Place pan over medium heat and stir. Simmer cranberry mixture until the berries burst, about 5 to 6 minutes.

Divide mixture in half and pour into large, clean mason jars. Pour vodka into the jars to cover the berries. Set aside and allow to sit for 1 week. After 1 week, strain out the cranberries and store cranberry vodka in a clean jar in the refrigerator.

To serve: Pour 2 ounces of vodka mixture over ice in a tall glass and top with tonic. Garnish with a slice of lime. I plan on using the cranberry vodka in a vodka tonic, or add cream to it for a creamy cranberry martini!

note: This vodka is very sweet. The next time I use this recipe, I’m going to cut the sugar in half.