Soak a slab of boneless salt cod in cold water in the fridge for 24 hours, changing the water twice.
Put the soaked fish and three whole peeled garlic cloves in an ovenproof dish with about 1/2 cup milk, bay leaf, peppercorns, cover and poach in a preheated 350 oven for 20 mins, until the fish just flakes.
Meanwhile, peel, boil and mash 2 russet potatoes. Mash by hand until fluffy. Add a little olive oil or cream.
Put fish and garlic into a food processor, whiz until it is uniformly broken up. With processor on, add about 1/4 c. good olive oil and about 1/2 cup cream. Add some fresh nutmeg and some pepper. When this mixture is uniformly thick and pasty, fold into the mashed potatoes and mix thoroughly. Taste for salt.
The balance of oil and cream can be adjusted at this point. Some like it oilier, some creamier, some drier.
Put into shallow ovenproof ramekins and just before serving brown the tops under a broiler and heat thoroughly. Serve with French bread or toast point and green salad.
If you are making it for a party, you can cover and freeze it in the ramekins and broil and bake when ready.
The one that I am making at this moment for this weekend has no potatoes.
1 lb. salt cod, soaked in several changes of water. Drain and rinse. Poach in a deep pot with about 6 C. water. When fish flakes remove from the heat and drain.
Heat 6 Tbs. olive oil in a heavy skilet. Add the cod and break up with a spoon. Heat 3/4 C. EVOO and 3/4 C. half and half in a saucepan. Put the cod in a food processor and drizzle in the oil and cream as you process. Season to taste with salt and pepper and put into a baking dish and then broil until golden on top.
I just made brandade a few days ago using the recipe from James Peterson's Glorious French Food cookbook and he provided the tip that for a rustic presentation you can put the potatoes through a ricer and flake the cod into the potato mixture with a wooden spoon, so that you end up with cod chunks. I am finding that I like this chunky way much better than the standard puree of the cod and potatoes.