When I was little, I used to be amazed at what my mother could whip up in the kitchen. I was convinced she had some magic powers as to why and how she could create the most delicious tasting dishes in no time. As I grew older this fascination turned into more of an admiration of how she could remember all of her (what appeared then, complex) recipes. She never seemed to refer to a cookbook or her handwritten recipe book handed down from her own mother, and she was able to constantly come up with impressive meals made from leftovers earlier in the week. This is exactly what fiskegrateng is, or a more elegant word for it may be ‘fish au gratin’. A broadly recognized dish many Norwegians remember from their childhood, it’s made with a base of white fish (cod is most common but you can use any white fish you have), adding pasta like elbow macaroni (some regions omit this although I think it is the best part!) and making a roux to combine it all. My mom would typically serve cod on Tuesday, and either Wednesday or Thursday we would have fiskegrateng. I always looked forward to dinner on this day, because it was one of the more ‘exotic’ dishes we were served; fish baked in the oven with pasta, we nearly felt like Italians! :) Extremely popular with kids, it is also the fish dinner most consumed in Norway. Try it out one day you want to impress your family or friends but don’t have a lot of time, I swear it may look complicated but it’s super easy and fast to put together!
600 grams (1 lb 5 oz) cod, cooked
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup all purpose flour
2 ½ cups milk
1 cup macaroni pasta
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp lemon zest
juice of half a lemon
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 ½ cups panko breadcrumbs
½ cup parmesan cheese, shredded
1 bunch fresh parsley, minced
salt, pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Cook the macaroni pasta according to the package direction until al dente in salted water. Drain and spread out on a sheet tray, set aside while you make the rest of the gratin.
To make the sauce/roux: Melt the butter in a sauce pot, add in the flour and whisk until combine. Add the milk gradually and let it simmer while thickening for a few minutes while continuously stirring.
Separate the eggs. Whisk the yolks into the sauce, one at a time. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff, but not dry. Fold them into the sauce. Season with salt and pepper Butter a 13 x 9 inch baking pan, and layer the fish, sauce and macaroni into the pan, finishing with sauce on top. Mix the parmesan and parsley in with the panko breadcrumbs and spread on top of the gratin.
Bake in oven for about 20 minutes until the breadcrumbs turn golden. Serve with boiled potatoes, shredded carrots and melted butter. Alternatively you can serve it with ‘råkostsalat’ (basically raw vegetable salad) where you shred 1 cup carrot, 1 cup rutabaga/ turnip/parsnip and 1 apple, mix together. Combine equal amounts of vingar, sugar, fresh lemon juice and water (1 tbsp each) in a bowl and pour over vegetables and you’ve got a healthy, delicious and fresh tasting salad!