Salt cod is expensive. This salad is a good way to use trimmings from a whole boneless or bone in side of baccala. If you trim the baccala before you soak it and save the unsoaked trimmings in the refrigerator, you can take your time making the salad. If you trim the baccala after soaking it, you'll have to make the salad within a day or two.
I picture this dish as part of a beautiful buffet, but it would make a nice first course at a dinner, or a lunch dish all by itself. The directions below will give you a warm salad, just let the potatoes and beans cool all the way. But please don't make this with chilled potatoes. Cooked potatoes should never see the inside of a refrigerator. They will become waxy and tasteless.
1 pound salt cod, soaked as described below
2 medium Idaho or Yukon Gold, potatoes (about 1 1/4 pounds)
½ pound haricots verts, or young string beans, both ends trimmed
½ cup red onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, chopped
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
fresh Italian parsley sprigs, optional
Bring a large saucepan of water to the simmer and drop in the soaked salt cod. Cook until the salt cod starts to open up and flake, about 8 minutes. Remove the salt cod from the water from a slotted spoon or skimmer and let cool to room temperature. With your fingers, flake the cod into pieces of about 1 1/2 inches, removing any bones and skin as you go.
Scrub the potatoes, place them in a large saucepan, and add enough cold, salted water to cover them by at least four fingers. Bring the water to a boil and cook the potatoes until tender but not mushy, about 35 minutes. Check them carefully toward the end of cooking and remove them before the jackets split. Once that happens, the potatoes can become waterlogged. Let the potatoes stand until they are cool enough to peel.
While the potatoes are boiling cook the haricots verts or string beans in a large pot of boiling water until al dente, tender but firm, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain and rinse very briefly under cold running water. If using the string beans, split them in half by pinching one end of the beans and pulling the halves apart, reserving any of the little beans that pop out. Set aside.
Assemble the salad while the potatoes are still warm. Peel the potatoes; slice them about 1/2 inch thick, and place in a large bowl. Add the string beans, red onion, chopped parsley, and salt cod. You may add all the salt cod at this point, or set aside some of the larger pieces to decorate the top of the finished salad. Drizzle all but 3 tablespoons of the oil over the salad and toss gently, to coat the ingredients with olive oil but keep the pieces of salt cod as large as possible. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Beat the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil with vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Arrange the salad in the center of a large platter or divide it among plates. Drizzle the vinaigrette around the salad and decorate with the reserved salt cod and parsley sprigs, if you like.