When we interviewed Café Pierre chef Rémi Lauvand, he talked about the importance of flavor, and how he's found himself going backwards, sort of, in his approach to cooking. By that, the French-born chef meant that he's returned to more basic presentations after some years of youthful experimentation. Lauvand's recipe for brandade, a puree of salt cod (also called bacalao), milk and olive oil that is a specialty of Provence and Languedoc, is a case in point. The chef used to turn his brandade into fritters, but says that these days he's gone back to a more rustic style, serving the dish simply, with a side of toasted baguette. If you've never cooked with salt cod before, this is a very easy recipe to start out with. And it's exceptionally tasty too.

Classic Brandade

From: Rémi Lauvand, chef at Café Pierre in Manhattan Beach.

Note: Salt cod is available at Whole Foods, Santa Monica Seafood, in Hispanic markets and many grocery stores.

Serves: At least 8.

1 pound salted cod

4 large Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes

1 cup of extra virgin olive oil

1 pint of heavy cream

1 quart of milk

2 springs of thyme

8 ounces of peeled garlic

1. In a large bowl soak the salted cod in cold water for about an hour. Discard the water and replace with fresh cold water. Let the cod soak overnight in the refrigerator.

2. The next day, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Bake the potatoes in the oven until completely cooked, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, drain the cod and rinse under cold water. Immerse the fish in a large pan and cover with the milk, adding some water if necessary to assure that the fish is completely covered. Add the thyme. Over high heat, bring the contents of the pan almost to the boil. Cover and put the dish into the oven (along with the potatoes) for 25 minutes.

3. In a small sauce pot over low heat, infuse the garlic and the olive oil for about 30 minutes. Maintain a low heat to prevent the garlic from burning. Strain and reserve the oil.

4. Repeat the same process with the same garlic but this time infuse the cream. Strain and reserve the cream. At this point you can discard the garlic.

5. Drain the fish and put it in a Kitchen Aid fitted with a whip attachment and turn at low speed until the fish is shredded. Peel the baked potatoes and put them through a ricer. Add the riced potatoes and the warm garlic cream to the fish and whisk until incorporated. Add the warm olive oil to the mix and whisk to combine. At this point the brandade should look creamy but it should still be a bit firm and not too runny.

6. At this point you can reserve in the refrigerator until used, or serve immediately. If reserving, warm the brandade with a bit more cream before using. Serve with toasted baguette.

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