When I was in Spain last September I bought some bacalao in the grocery shop near our hotel to bring home with me to Ireland. It’s a good thing it lasts so long because nearly a year on it’s only now that I’ve managed to use it. I originally planned on making brandade but the olive oil I had was a bit strong in flavour so I chose to do a simple puree with butter and potatoes instead. To ensure the smoothest result possible I pushed the potatoes and cod through a food mill which took nearly half an hour so if the texture isn’t much of an issue for you a normal potato masher would be fine (do not blend in a food processor as the mixture will turn to glue).
What’s interesting about bacalao is you have to desalinate it a day or two beforehand, changing the water around every eight hours only to be left with fish that then needs to be seasoned. It might seem pointless salting only to remove it again but as with pork cured for prosciutto the salt acts not just as a preservative: it also changes, though not as dramatically, the texture and taste of the flesh.
Moving onto the other seafood component, my prefered fat for frying scallops is clarified butter as normal butter will burn at the intense temperatures required and it’s actually very easy to make too. There’s plenty of guides online but basically just gently heat a few hundred grams (it’s best to make it in a big batch: it keeps in the fridge for months) of unsalted butter for around ten minutes and skim off the white foam that periodically floats to the top. It will probably splutter a little bit as the water in the emulsion evaporates which is fine; however, what needs to be watched out for is some of the milk solids left in the oil starting to burn. If you see any brown flecks starting to appear take the pan off the heat immediately, strain the liquid through a wet cheesecloth (if dry it will absorb some of the oil) and refrigerate until required. If it all seems like a bit too much effort then any oil with a high smoke point will do.
8 scallops (with the orange foot removed)
30g clarified butter
2 small potatoes, peeled and quartered
100g salt cod, chopped into 3cm pieces
40g broad beans (shelled weight)
25g pancetta, diced
100ml dry sherry
50ml chicken stock
Half a shallot, finely diced
Paprika, pinch of
Sherry vinegar, splash of
- For the puree, the day before, place the salt cod in a bowl and cover with water. Change this water every eight hours to desalinate the fish.
- In a large pot of cold water, bring the potatoes to the boil until easily pierced with a fork (around twenty minutes).
- About five minutes before the potatoes are done add the salt cod.
- When cooked, pour of all the water off and mash the potatoes and cod to thick paste (for smooth puree, use a food mill).
- Add 50g of the butter to the paste and incorporate over a low heat to form a creamy puree. Adjust the seasoning if required.
- For the sauce, melt 10g of butter and gently saute the shallots for 3-4 minutes.
- Add the sherry, stock, honey, paprika and peppercorns and bring to the boil.
- Lower the heat and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half.
- Strain the sauce through a fine sieve and then stir in 20g of butter.
- Add the sherry vinegar and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
- Fry the pancetta on a low to medium heat until golden bown and crispy. Reserve.
- In a pot of boiling salted water, cook the broad beans for 90 seconds. When cooked, strain and plunge the beans into a bowl of iced water.
- For the scallops, heat a pan over a high heat and when smoking add the clarified butter.
- Season the scallops and fry for a maximum of 30-40 seconds on each side.
- When the scallops are done, remove and in the same pan reheat the broad beans and pancetta for a few seconds.
- To plate, add four blobs of puree in a diagonal line from the top left hand corner to the bottom right hand corner of the plate. Place a scallop on each of the blobs and drizzle them with the sauce. Scatter the broad beans and pancetta on either side.