Gourmandistan

Sort-of French salt cod fritters (accras de morue)

Salt cod fritters

Gourmandistan recently purchased about a pound of Canadian salt cod, as Michelle would like to try to recreate a friend’s stepfather’s legendary crusty cod hash. (Our first attempt was tasty, but also un-crusty and un-photogenic.) It turns out that a pound is quite a bit of dried cod, so we’ve been looking for some other ways to use the salty stuff. We thought salt cod fritters would be a good idea.

Our first tastes of salt cod fritters came from French markets. This exotique snack was sold under the name accras (or sometimes acras) de morue, leading us to assume some sort of Gallic genesis for the salty, hushpuppy-like treat. After a bit of research we learned that the fritters (which also go by beignets de morue, pastéis de bacalhau, frittelle di baccala and many other names) come from all sorts of places, including Trinidad, North Africa, Italy and Portugal.

While we’d love to check out the other countries’ versions, we’re home-bound for the foreseeable future and were forced to make our own. We looked at numerous instructions, but settled on this adaptation of a Laura Calder recipe because we thought the beaten egg whites would result in a texture like the ones we remember from markets past. The fritters turned out light, crispy and fishily delicious, and we quite enjoyed them—though they did end up making us wistfully nostalgic for France.

SALT COD FRITTERS (Accras de Morue)

  • Servings: about 20 small fritters
  • Print

(adapted from Laura Calder on cookingchanneltv.com)

  • 8 oz. salt cod
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 1/4 c. milk
  • 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 onion, finely minced
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper, depending on your heat tolerance
  • Salt and black pepper
  • A handful of chopped fresh parsley
  • Neutral oil, for deep-frying

Soak the salt cod in cold water for 24 to 48 hours, changing the water several times a day.

Put the prepared cod in a small pot of cold water along with the bay leaf. Bring water almost to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside to cool.  Remove any bones and unsightly pieces of skin.

Break fish up into 5 or 6 pieces and place in the bowl of a food processor.

Beat egg white in a small bowl until it forms stiff peaks.

Whisk the egg yolk and milk together in a medium bowl. Sift in the flour and baking powder and stir until the mixture forms a paste. Add the paste to the food processor. Pulse for about a minute until fish is shredded. Add the onion, cayenne, salt, black pepper and parsley. Pulse a few times to mix.

Remove mixture to a medium bowl. Fold in beaten egg whites.

Heat several inches of oil in a high-sided pan to 350° F.

Drop generously-rounded teaspoons of batter into the hot oil, a few at a time. Turn with a slotted spoon so that they brown evenly.  Drain on a cooling rack or on paper towels.

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32 comments

  1. Mmmm…salt cod fritters sound lovely. We are really into fritters here in New Zealand but I’ve never seen salt cod here. These look like a tasty snack for entertaining. What would you dip them into? Not because they need flavour, but because dipping is fun 🙂

    • You’re a girl after my own heart. When we made these we were like: Where’s the sauce??? Though we never had any in take-away French market world, we agreed that some aioli would have been great.

    • We seldom do fish (for all the depressing reasons), and I have serious doubt that this was really cod despite the label (not flaky enough). But these were good nevertheless.

  2. I’ve only eaten crumbed Portugese brandade fritters, bound together with potato. They were fabulous, with an aoli style sauce. Good salt cod has become quite expensive here sadly, it’s all imported from Scandanavia. There is no substitute for the delicious fishy salty flavour

  3. I just discovered a frozen knob of salt cod in the depths of my freezer — perhaps I’ll forgo my usual Venetian pesce in saor and spring some fritters on unsuspecting in-laws as my contribution to Thanksgiving!

    • They are tasty little things. I do wish I could master my friend’s stepdad’s salt cod hash with the incredible crust, but I figure this one box of salt cod is about all my guilty conscience can stand for a while.

  4. We never run out of salt cod here in Nova Scotia, and we don’t mind sharing it! Salt cod cakes are very popular here, and traditionally served with a green tomato chow. Your fritters look delicious. I will try that recipe soon…cheers.

  5. Hey Michelle and Steve,

    Those fritters look so wonderful. You always make your food look fantastic. Leaves the rest of us sighing. I typically make a salt cod stew, but first, I soak the cod for a good 72 hours in milk.

    Personally, I blame the Portuguese for most of the wonderful things culinary: salt cod, deep-fried anything, chorizo, etc. Their influence has been so subtle but enormous. As I say to my students, imagine Indian food without the chili. It was the Portuguese who brought the chili to Goa. A cuisine was radically changed from then on.

    I was wondering if the French market stalls you visited actually used garbanzo/fava flour instead of the wheat? Was this in Southern France you had the fritters? Possibly, if yes.

    Have a simply superb Thanksgiving. I just picked up my heirloom turkey and I can’t wait to start smelling that scent of roasted turkey in the air.

    ~Janet @ The Kitchen Bridge

    • The best ones we ever had were in Provence (though we’ve seen them all over the place). And it’s entirely possible that some used chickpea flour. Which definitely sounds worth a try, especially since I have a little salt cod left.

      I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving, Janet!

  6. These look and sound amazing. I love salt cod. There are a couple of salt cod posts on my blog when I found some salt cod at, of all places, the Whole Foods in Tulsa, Oklahoma! I was ecstatic! I haven’t seen it since.

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