Adapted from The French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller, Susie Heller (Photographer), Michael Ruhlman, Deborah Jones (Photographer)
Makes 6 servings
I love cod because you can do so much with it. I wanted a garnish for a cod fillet that was indigenous to where that cod was from. Thus the New England chowder, and also the cod cakes, which are wonderful all by themselves, I used to serve them as a canapé. They're based on brandade, which is a traditional French dish of pureed salt cod and potatoes. These cakes are sautéd to develop a perfect crust on the outside and creaminess on the inside. I use them as the pedestal for the fillet, which is sauced with a very elegant "chowder" of celery, potatoes, and clams, and finish the dish with vivid parsley oil.
This recipe will make more cod cakes than you need, but you can store them in the freezer, ready to be used as appetizers or a first course on their own. If you do not have 14 ounces of trimmings, just reduce the other quantities accordingly.
For the Cod: Trim any darkened areas from the fillet. Cut 6 portions about 2 inches by 3 inches by 1 inch thick (2 1/2 to 3 ounces each) from the fillet. Cut the trimmings into chunks (about 14 ounces total).
For the Cod Cakes: Place the potatoes in a saucepan with water to cover by at least 2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat, and simmer until tender; drain.
Meanwhile, bring the wine, shallots, garlic, thyme, and peppercorns to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the cod trimmings, cover, and steam the fish for 5 minutes, or until thoroughly cooked. Remove the pieces of fish and drain them on paper towels. Discard the cooking liquid.
Place the hot potatoes and hot fish in a bowl and break them up with a fork until evenly mixed. Add the remaining ingredients one at a time, mixing after each addition. Cover and refrigerate for about 1 hour.
To Roll the Logs: Put a 14-inch piece of plastic wrap on a wet counter (this will make rolling the logs easier), place half of the cod mixture on the plastic, and form it into a 2-inch-wide log that is 7 to 8 inches long. Roll the log in the plastic and twist the ends. Tie one end and twist the other tightly to compress the mixture. Repeat to form the second log. Place in the freezer for at least several hours, or up to 2 weeks.
For the Clams: Place the clams in a small pot with the garlic, shallot, thyme, bay leaf, and wine. Cover and bring to a boil; remove each clam as soon as it opens. Remove the clams from the shells and reserve. Strain the cooking liquid into a small saucepan and reduce to a glaze (2 to 3 tablespoons). Add the heavy cream and reduce the sauce slowly to about 1/3 to 1/2 cup.
To Complete: Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Cut six 3/4 inch slices from one cod cake log, remove the plastic wrap, and thaw them for about 15 minutes. (Keep the remaining mixture frozen for another time.) Heat 1/4 inch of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Dip the cod cakes in flour, pat off any excess, and sauté for about 1 1/2 minutes on each side, or until they are browned and hot throughout. Keep them warm on a baking sheet in the oven.
In a large skillet, heat 1/4 inch of oil until hot. Season the cod with salt and white pepper and sauté until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side.
Drain briefly on paper towels. Meanwhile, for the "chowder," in a saucepan, warm the celery and potato cubes with the beurre monte, parsley, brunoise, and reserved clams. Rewarm the sauce over low heat.
Pipe a ring of parsley oil in each serving dish. Fill each ring with about 1 tablespoon of the sauce, top with a cod cake, the sautéd cod, and the "chowder."
Brunoise, what we call our tiny dice of staple vegetables, is used often as a garnish at the French Laundry. Rather than making a small quantity, make a large batch and freeze it.
Cut all the vegetables into 1/16 inch julienne strips and then cut across to make 1/16 inch dice.
Blanch each vegetable separately in lightly salted boiling water to set the color and soften the vegetables. For small amounts of vegetables, it's easiest to place the vegetables in a strainer and submerge the strainer in the boiling water. When the vegetables are cooked, lift out the strainer and plunge it into ice water for a few seconds to chill the vegetables and set the color. Then lift out the strainer and place the vegetables on paper towels to drain.
When all the vegetables are blanched and drained, mix them together in a covered container and refrigerate for up to a day. For longer storage, spread the drained brunoise on a tray and place the tray in the freezer until frozen. Store the frozen brunoise in a well-sealed plastic bag in the freezer. You can use the brunoise directly from the freezer in recipes where it is warmed before serving.
Preparing Beurre Monte:
A little bit of water helps the emulsion process. Whether you emulsify 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) or 1 pound of butter, just a tablespoon of water will do. Any amount of beurre monte can be made using the following method. Read the particular recipe through to determine the total amount of beurre monte you will need.
Bring the water (1 tablespoon) to a boil in an appropriate size saucepan. Reduce the heat to low and begin whisking the chunks of butter into the water, bit by bit, to emulsify. Once you have established the emulsion, you can continue to add pieces of butter until you have the quantity of beurre monte that you need (we make 20 pounds at a time). It is important to keep the level of heat gentle and consistent in order to maintain the emulsification. Make the beurre monte close to the time it will be used and keep it in a warm place. If you have extra beurre monte, it can be refrigerated and then reheated to use as melted butter or clarified.
Thought we are enamored of beurre monte and use it all day in our kitchens, when a recipe calls for only a tablespoon or two, you can substitute whole butter.
Makes about 1/3 cup
Blanching Time: 15 seconds