Indulge in the Traditional Mediterranean Delight: Brandade de Morue!
Brandade de Morue is a specialty of Nimes, an ancient town in the department of the Gard, part of Occitanie in the south of France. The Romans chose the area around the city as one of their major settlements, and left many traces, from aqueducts to arenas. The dish we are going to make, brandade, is a specialty of Nimes, which seems odd since there is no port. But that’s why the dish was so important. Catholics, required by the church to fast on Fridays, could only eat fish. But they had no access to fresh fish so they relied on salt cod, like so many land-locked areas. They had an abundance of olive oil and garlic so, voila, brandade was born! It’s the simplest of dishes, yet so sumptuous that, personally, I’ve always been grateful to the ancient Nimois for dreaming it up. I am, though, using fresh cod in this version, which we salt ourselves. My reasons are two-fold: good salt cod is hard to find, and it’s fun to make your own salted fish. Team it with a crisp winter salad, like the one here, and heaven is nearby!
Suggestions for completing the menu:
Here I suggest a simple plate of sliced winter radishes and fennel, with a light sprinkling of salt, and a blend of cumin and piment d’Espelette or hot paprika.
Here you want to try a Costières de Nimes white, a wonderfully round and almost buttery wine made with grenache, marsanne, and roussane grapes from the rocky hillsides around the city. The Romans planted the vines around Nimes but it wasn’t until the 1950’s that the wine came into its own, and now it has an AOP, the French culinary badge of excellence.