“Accra” – Beignets de brandade de morue (saltcod fritters)

fritters made from salt cod
“Accra” or beignets de brandade de morue
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"Accra"
Prep Time
1 hrs
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
1 hrs 20 mins
 

A meeting of two related recipes.: the "accra" or saltfish fritters of the Caribbean, (often identified with Trinidad and Jamaica, though variants from each are very different) and the beignets de brandade de morue, which are fritters from Niçoise cookery, made with the core recipe for the saltcod fish mousse that is one of the masterpieces of Provençal/Cote d'Azur cuisine

Course: Appetizer, Starter
Cuisine: Caribbean | Provençal
Servings: 6
Author: Howard Dinin
Ingredients
  • 150 grams all-purpose flour scant cup
  • 270 grams boneless saltcod about 9 oz. by weight
  • 2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes probably two, skinned and quartered
  • 30 mL olive oil about 2 Tbsp
  • 9 grams white peppercorns fresh ground; about 2 tsp
  • 9 grams smoked hot paprika about 2 tsp
  • 1 large egg beaten
  • 250 cc water about a cup; to trickle into the batter
  • 9 grams baking powder about 2 tsp
  • 1 small onion peeled and minced
  • 3 cloves of garlic crushed in a press
For cooking
  • 250-375 cc cooking oil, high smoke point use sunflower, grapeseed, canola, or peanut oil, or any combination of these; approximately 1 – 1½ cups
Instructions
Prepare the boneless saltcod; store unused portion
  1. Most saltcod, especially of the boneless variety, seems to come from Canada. I used what turned out to be a fine product that was sold in one pound poly bags at the local super market in the refrigerator case.

  2. Follow the directions on the packaging. They will likely be along the same lines whoever the packer or supplier is.

  3. Essentially, soak a pound of saltcod, boneless, in 6 cups of cold water and store the bowl in the refrigerator between changes of the liquid. Change the water three times in the course of 24 hours. Drain well, and use as directed in the recipe. Any unused portion of fish can be stored in a clean poly storage bag in the fridge for two or three days.

  4. I don't know if the restored (desalinated and rehydrated) fish can be frozen, but I also know of no reason not. I'd suggest a sealable freezer grade poly storage bag, squeezed free of air and stored in the freezer for up to six months. Defrost in the refrigerator over 24 hours.

Prepare ingredients for the batter
  1. After de-salting the cod and draining it well, weigh out 270 grams. Shred roughly in a food processor by pulsing it. Set aside.

  2. Peel and quarter the potatoes. Bring a quart of water to a boil and add two teaspoons of coarse kosher salt. Drop in the potato quarters and boil until tender (only to the point where a carving fork tine enters with little resistance).

  3. Drain the potatoes immediately and set aside in a bowl large enough to mash. Using a tool designed to mash softened vegetables, or a large kitchen fork, mash the potatoes coarsely and set aside.

  4. Skin the onion. Slice it, and mince fine. Set aside.

  5. Peel the garlic cloves and trim of stem ends. Set aside, ready to be crushed in a press at the time you add the garlic to the batter (see instructions further along).

  6. Beat the egg well until white and yolk are uniformly combined.

  7. Complete your mise en place by preparing the peppercorns, flour, baking powder, olive oil, and water in proper containers, ready for adding, as you would with any recipe.

Preparing the Batter
  1. In 2 quart non-reactive bowl (stainless steel or glass), combine the dry ingredients.

  2. Add the wet ingredients in any order, mixing each in well with a cooking spoon or silicon rubber spatula. When they have all been added, make sure they are combined well.

  3. At this point, you may allow the batter, which will be fairly stiff, to sit for about a half hour, at which point you will add the fish and potatoes. Or you can add first the fish and then the mashed potatoes at once. If you add them after the batter has rested (and risen somewhat), they will be easier to combine prior to adding the water.

  4. After adding the fish and potatoes, combine as well as possible to a state of uniformity. The batter is now ready to add the water.

  5. Add the water in a trickle, or in small amounts (two or three tablespoons worth at a time) and keep mixing with the fork or spatula. Keep adding water until the batter is sufficiently liquid to hold its shape but to drop off a spoon easily.

    It should be more fluid than dough, and more viscous than batter. It will drop off a spoon, but will not pour.

Frying the beignets
  1. In a seasoned cast-iron skillet (or similar heavy-walled, heat-retaining material) nine or ten inches in diameter, add the cooking oil to a depth of at least an inch. Heat over medium-high burner until the oil reaches a temperature of 360°F on a candy thermometer or an IR-reading digital thermometer.

  2. While the oil reaches cooking temperature, prepare an absorbent landing pad for the beignets in a safe location near the range using paper towels folded two or three layers thick.

  3. For each beignet, load a tablespoon with a heaping scoop of batter, and drop into the oil near the surface. There should be room in a skillet of the indicated size to fit five beignets comfortably. Assuming the oil is sufficiently hot to begin with, the batter will not stick to the surfaces of the skillet. With a heat-proof cooking spoon, make sure the beignets are able to move freely in the hot oil.

  4. After two or three minutes of frying, turn over a couple of the beignets in turn to see how well browned they are. When a beignet has turned a rich golden brown, turn the beignet over to cook on the other side.

  5. When the beignets have cooked uniformly to the same doneness, remove them one by one and deposit on the absorbent paper towels.

  6. You may keep the beignets warm and crispy by placing in a single layer on an oven proof pan or sheet and keeping in a 200° oven until ready to serve.

  7. This recipe should make from 24 to 32 beignets depending on the portion you used to fry the batter. Sufficient as appetizers for six people.

Serving the beignets
  1. These are excellent with a dipping sauce, or perhaps a choice of sauces. Accra are traditionally served with what is called in the Caribbean a "sauce chien" (dog sauce) which is sweet and savory at once, with some spicy kick.

  2. I prefer these with an "aigre-doux" (sweet and sour) spicy sauce that is much simpler as served in my favorite restaurant in Nice, France, where I first learned about "accra." This recipe provides for a reasonable substitute for the dish that's served at Le Safari year-round. Though these are somewhat more moist, and with not quite as crunchy a crust. I infer they fry theirs in a fryolator, which keeps the oil hotter when the batter is added.

  3. I will post a recipe for a sweet-sour spicy dipping sauce in the next few days.

  4. It may not be to everyone's taste, but I also like these beignets dipped, potato latke style, in sour cream or crème fraîche, chilled in the refrigerator.

Storing leftovers
  1. These will keep, though they'll lose some crispness overnight in the refrigerator, if allowed to cool on the countertop and then stored in the fridge in a sealable poly storage bag with excess air expelled. A freezer bag will allow freezing for a longer storage period.

  2. You can refresh the refrigerated leftovers to a reasonable degree of restored crispness if you reheat them in a pre-heated oven or toaster oven at 350°F for six or seven minutes on a sheet of parchment paper in a baking sheet or tray.

    If you have frozen the beignets, I suggest reheating them in a pre-heated oven or toaster oven on parchment paper on a baking tray or sheet. Set the oven at 400°F and heat for 13-14 minutes.

    Do not allow the reheated beignets to brown any further in the oven