Croutons with Brandade
1 1/4 pounds dry salt cod
1/2 pound peeled boiling potatoes, cut into small chunks
3/4 cup cold milk
1 small onion stuck with 6 cloves
Few sprigs of fresh thyme or a pinch dried thyme
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste
1 baguette, thinly sliced and toasted
Soak the cod in water for 48 hours, changing the water two times each day. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the potatoes until soft, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and discard the water.
Clean the cod of all bones and skin. Place the cod in a saucepan with 1/2 cup of the milk, the onion and thyme, and just enough cold water to cover. Place on medium heat and just as it begins to simmer, remove it from the heat and let it cool 30 minutes. Drain the salt cod and discard the thyme sprigs. Discard any additional bones and skin from the cod.
Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Heat the remaining 1/4 cup milk, heavy cream and olive oil. Place the garlic and potatoes in a blender or food processor and mix at low speed just until mixed. Do not over-process. Flake the fish and add to the blender alternately with one-third of the warm milk-cream-olive oil mixture. Process for 1 minute and scrape down the sides of the blender. Process 3 minutes. Add some of the remaining warm milk-cream-olive oil mixture a little at a time, stopping from time to time to scrape down the sides of the blender. The blending process should last for 8 minutes. Turn the speed to high and process until the mixture is light, 2 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
This can be prepared 1 day ahead of time to this point. Bring to room temperature before the final baking.
Oil a shallow 2-quart baking dish with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Spread the brandade in the dish and bake 15 minutes, until hot.
Serve with warm croutons.