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1. Soak the salt cod for 24 hours in at least 3 or 4 changes of
water (more if you think of it—be liberal with the soaking). Rinse very well
before you start the poaching step.
2. Combine all the poaching liquid ingredients in a large pot
and bring to a boil. Reduce to a strong simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes,
until flavorful and aromatic. If you wish, you can strain the liquid at this
point, though this is not really necessary.
3. Add the salt cod and simmer until
it is tender but not mushy and flakes easily, 15 to 20 minutes. Scoop out the
fish and allow it to cool, then flake the fish into a bowl, picking out any
bones and skin. Set the fish aside.
4. For the aioli, lightly beat the egg yolks together with the
lemon juice in a medium-sized bowl. Mash the garlic to a smooth paste with a
pinch of salt. Set aside one-fourth of the paste and add the rest to the
egg-yolk mixture, along with the cold water and 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and stir.
Gradually whisk in the oils, and continue whisking until the aioli is thick and
5. Taste, then fold in the remaining garlic paste and/or add additional
salt if needed. Refrigerate until needed. You could make the aioli in a blender
or food processor, if you prefer.
6. To prepare the cod cakes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prick
the potatoes several times with a fork, and bake them for 50 to 60 minutes,
until fork-tender in the center. You can continue with other parts of the
preparation, but as soon as the potatoes are done, stop whatever you’re doing
and remove them from the oven. Cut them immediately, and press the ends
together to open them so they don’t steam up and get mushy. Flake them into a
medium-size bowl while they’re still hot, and set aside.
7. Heat the olive oil in a small sauté pan over low heat. Add
the onion and garlic and slowly sweat until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes, being
careful not to caramelize them. Allow them to cool, then add them to the bowl
of potatoes, along with the celery, minced jalapeño, tarragon, parsley,
scallion, cayenne, salt, pepper and 1/4 cup of the aioli. Using a fork, mix
thoroughly but gently. Add the flaked cod and give it a final gentle mixing,
taking care not to break up the cod any further.
8. Form the cod mixture into 6
balls, using about 1/4 cup per ball. Chill well.
9. When you are ready to cook the cakes, mix the egg and water
together to make an egg wash. Arrange a breading area, with the egg wash set
between a small plate of flour and a small plate of panko. Using your hands,
flatten the cod balls into cakes about 2 inches in diameter and 3/4 inch thick.
Dip the cakes into the flour, then the egg, then the panko, shaking off excess
flour and panko as you go.
10. Pour the oil to a depth of 1 inch in a deep, heavy-bottomed
saucepan and heat it to 375 degrees. Carefully add just enough cakes to fill the pan
without overcrowding. Cook about 2 minutes on each side until golden and
crispy, turning them once halfway through the cooking. As the cakes finish,
transfer them to paper towels or a wire rack to drain. Keep in a warm oven
until needed. Before cooking the next batch, skim out any bits left in the pan,
and make sure the oil is at 375 degrees before going ahead. Continue until all the
cod cakes have been fried.
11. For the salad, combine the watercress, arugula and radishes
in a bowl. Squeeze in some lemon juice, drizzle with olive oil and toss
lightly. Season with salt and pepper.
12. To make the salsa, combine all the ingredients except the vinegar and oil in a bowl. Mix well but gently, taking care not to mash the avocado. Whisk together the vinegar and oil until emulsified, and add just enough of this to the salsa to moisten it. Reserve any leftover vinaigrette to use in other salad dressings.
13. To serve, arrange the salad on plates,
place cod cakes on the salad, and top with a couple spoonfuls of the
tomatillo-avocado salsa, and garnish with the remaining aioli. You can thin the
aioli with a drizzle of water, if necessary.