Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Brandade-stuffed pimientos with tomato-piquillo salsa

Piquillos Rellenos

How ironic life can be! I spent the entire previous post praising Ducasse's Grand Livre de Cuisine "Mediterrannee" and the first recipe published on this blog is an adaptation of a dish from the Grand Livre de Cuisine "Bistrots, Brasseries et Restaurants de Tradition". Regardless of the source, the flavors of this dish remain definitely Mediterranean (pimientos rellenos are served in most tapas bars across Spain) although I must say there is a pronounced Basque touch to it (pimientos are grown in Navarre and espelette pepper, used in the salsa, is produced in the French Basque Country).

This is a dish I first made last year and that I found quite satisfying at the time. The contrast between the sweet peppers and the saltier brandade really worked wonders with the salsa. It reminded me so much of the days I had spent in San Sebastian a few years ago. But that night my wife was traveling in Boston or some place close I guess. And as a meal is not really what it should be when not shared with your significant other, I had told her I would cook that again. It took me more than a year to do so. However, when I stumbled upon glass jars of pimientos del piquillo in Whole Foods yesterday, it reminded me I had a promise to honor. As cod also looked extremely fresh at the fish stand, I knew this had to be THE night for stuffed pimientos.

It is obviously preferable to use fresh pimientos and roast them on the gas burner or under the broil until they are blackened and blistered. Then, you let them rest in a plastic bag for 10 minutes so you can peel them much more easily. Unfortunately, I have never found fresh pimientos in the US so I use those in jars. As they are preserved in olive olive oil, they act as a nice replacement. Just make sure you buy pimientos from Lodosa (otherwise they would not be real piquillos and obviously would not taste as such).

As for the brandade, a Nimes' specialty consisting of mashed potatoes mixed with cod, garlic parsley and olive oil, you should try to use salt cod (the famous Spanish bacalao or morue in French) as it really tastes better. But, once again, the fishmonger at Whole Foods has only "regular" cod, which still works fine, though. Note that the original recipe of brandade contains milk or cream. Feel free to add some if you want to obtain creamier taste and texture.

I also suggest you add a pinch of espelette pepper, that you can source here, to the salsa. Tastier than black pepper and milder than cayenne with a smoky touch. You won't regret it. Buen provecho!

Ingredients (for 12 stuffed pimientos):

2 jars of pimientos del piquillo (or 24 fresh pimientos roasted and peeled)

2 medium Yukon Gold Potatoes

0.4 lbs of cod

3 garlic cloves (crushed and finely chopped)

2 tbsp of parsley

1/4 cup Heavy cream

1.5 cup Tomato puree

Olive oil


Espelette pepper

1. Make sure you remove all the seeds from the 12 piquillos that will be stuffed.

2. Place the potatoes in a sauce pan. Cover with water. Take to a boil until cooked through. Do the same with the cod.

3. Crumble the cod and saute it in olive oil for 3-4 minutes with the minced garlic and the parsley.

4. Peel the potatoes and mashed them. Mix with the cod, garlic and parsley. Add olive oil and mix with a wooden spoon until smooth. Season with salt to taste. This is your brandade.

5. Put the brandade in a freezer bag. Cut the tip and use it as a pastry bag to stuff the piquillos.

6. Prepare the salsa by mixing with a blender together the cream, 6-7 coarsely chopped piquillos and heated tomato puree. Season with salt and Espelette pepper to taste.

7. Preheat the oven at 425 degrees F. Put the stuffed piquillos on a baking tray and sprinkle them with olive oil. Put into the oven for 5 minutes. Serve.

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