Brandade is traditionally made with rehydrated salt cod. However, I decided to go with one of my favorite oily fish, (Boston or Atlantic) mackerel. Given that I used mackerel in lieu of cod, not sure you can technically call it a brandade. That’s okay. How about we just call it smoked fish spread or salad.
I smoked the mackerel in my Cameron stovetop smoker, but you can easily substitute with any store bought smoked fish (whitefish, bluefish, trout). I’ve read that you can create an indoor smoker with a wok and some steamer baskets, but have yet to try this method). Oily fish work best in the smoker (the oiliness pairs well with the smokiness and produces an extremely moist fish). After smoking, I mixed the mackerel with boiled Yukon Gold potatoes, lots of garlic, chopped chives, and olive oil. Finished it under the broiler for a few minutes until the top got nicely browned.
Smoked whitefish spread screams for a toasty New York bagel, or perhaps a slice of Jewish rye bread. I’ve made multigrain bagels in the past, so decided to try something a little different — rye seed crackers (with ground flax, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds) topped with sesame seeds, coarse sea salt, and nigella seeds (aka charnushka or black onion seeds); nigella seeds are the tiny, black, smoky flavored seeds found atop Jewish rye bread.
If you can’t find nigella seeds, don’t worry, you can use just about any seed, spice, and/or herb to garnish these crackers. I added a sprinkling of fresh chopped rosemary to a few. The key to these crackers is to roll them out as thin as possible. Then, bake in the oven as large sheets, until crispy and golden brown. When the cracker sheets have cooled, break them up into jagged, non-uniform pieces. And of course, top with some of the warm, smoked fish “brandade” spread.
Smoked Mackerel “Brandade”
12 ounces smoked mackerel (about two 1-pound whole Boston mackerel)
8 ounces Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into cubes
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
6 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons chives, chopped
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
Smoke each mackerel for 22 to 25 minutes (about 22 minutes for 11 to 13 ounces of mackerel; about 25 minutes for 14-16 ounces of mackerel). When cool enough to handle, separate the meat from the bones (being careful to remove all the little bones). Boil the potatoes until fork tender. Drain. Place half of the shredded mackerel in a food processor with the potatoes. Slowly drizzle in 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Puree until smooth. Place the mackerel-potato mixture in a large bowl.
With a fork, mash in the remaining shredded mackerel, chopped chives, and enough olive oil (~1 to 2 tablespoons) to form a smooth spread. Season with salt and pepper. Place the fish spread in a small oven proof cocotte or ramekin, drizzle with a little olive oil, and place under the broil for about 5 minutes until the top is crispy and browned. Serve warm, atop some crusty french bread, a toasty bagel, or homemade rye crackers.
Rye Seed Crackers
4 tablespoons sunflower seeds
4 tablespoon pumpkin seeds
3 tablespoons flax seeds
6 tablespoons sesame seeds
8 ounces rye flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 fluid ounces water, room temperature
egg wash (1 egg white plus 2 tablespoons water)
coarse sea salt
fresh chopped herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano)
ground spices (cumin, garlic salt, chile powder)
Grind the sunflower and pumpkin seeds to a fine powder in a spice grinder. Place in a small bowl. Grind the flax seeds to a fine powder in a spice grinder. Combine the seed powders, sesame seeds, rye flour, salt, olive oil, and water. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface and kneed for a few minutes until well incorporated (slightly tacky but not sticky).
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide the dough into quarters (keeping the rest covered with plastic wrap). Roll out the first piece of dough to ~ 1/16-inch thick. Brush the surface with egg wash and sprinkle with the garnishes. Repeat with the remaining dough. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until slightly browned and crispy. Break into pieces.