This is a very traditional French (and Spanish) dish that can be eaten as an appetizer or as part of the main meal. Start with a 1-lb chuck of salt cod, like this one:
Soak it overnight in two changes of cold water. The next day, put it in a pot of cold water with a bay leaf, bring it up to a simmer (just short of a boil) and simmer for 25 minutes. Let cool and remove from the cooking liquid, but save the liquid.
Break up the cod and place in a food processor along with:
- 1 lb boiled potatoes
- 1/2c cream
- 1 cup good olive oil
You can serve it as it is, but it's better if you put it in a gratin dish and bake it at 375F for 20 minutes or until you get some nice browning on top, like this:
Serve with pieces of toast. For a dinner party you could serve individual ones in small ramekins, as a first course.
There are many variations. Some add garlic, lemon zest, black pepper, red pepper, and/or nutmeg. Some variations use no potatoes, just cream and olive oil. I'll post some other varieties in the future.
Update: Just got Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook. He poaches the fish in a small amount of cream, which preserves more of the flavor.