Salt cod, or “klippfisk” as we call it in Norwegian, is probably one of the hottest foods right now in Norway that is experiencing a type of renaissance when it comes to modern, hip eating. A traditional food from the old times, this has taken on a new life both in people’s homes, in restaurants and eateries across Norway. There is even a klippfisk museum in Norway! Read more about the history of salt and dried cod in my previous blog post here.
Image source: dinmat.no
People love klippfisk in all forms; pan fried, grilled with tomato and garlic, in soups, salads, made into patties, and of course in the ever famous bacalao. There is a popular restaurant in my neighboring town of Ålesund called XL, specializing in a myriad of different bacalao recipes. Home cooks and professionals alike have been inspired by this phenomenon, and experimenting with different cuisines from all over the world, keeping one ingredient consistent: the klippfisk. Coconut dishes from Brazil, olive oil and beans from Portugal, garlic from Spain and Italy, and Norwegians will add in king crab and shrimp, products that shine in our country. The results are exciting and delicious, and so the recipe tasting continues… Klippfisk really is very versatile, healthy and quite reasonably priced in the stores I’ve seen it available in this country.
A few years back I had it in a gratin, covered in a bechamel sauce and topped with cheese, mixed in with nice, earthy vegetables and herbs. So incredibly tasty! I decided to share a recipe with you today that is a mix and match of different recipes I have tried out through the years. I like the combination of the salty fish with the creamy sauce and rich cheese, mixed in with the smoky bacon and some nice texture from the vegetables.
This recipe is also great because you can make it ahead of time, and just pop it into the oven right before your guests arrive. Stress free, but makes an impressive and delicious meal. Try this out the next time you are in the mood for a baked dish and want to try something different!
GRATINERT KLIPPFISK (Salt Cod Au Gratin)
2 lbs dried cod
2 lbs Yukon gold potatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds and parboiled
2 large carrots, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds and parboiled
1 large leek plus 2-3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced and lightly sauteed in butter
150 g bacon / 10 good slices, diced, sauteed and rendered
60 grams (1/2 stick) butter
60 grams / 1/4 cup) all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups (3 d l) whole milk
1 1/4 cup (3 dl) heavy cream
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1tbsp fresh thyme, minced (or other fresh herbs such as tarragon, oregano or basil)
1 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper (1/4 tsp or so)
250 g (1 cup) shredded Jarlsberg cheese (or cheese of your choice)
Place the cod in fresh cold water and leave over night up to four nights before to draw as much salt out of the fish as possible. In a large pot of boiling water, place the fish into the pot turn off the heat, and pull the pot away from the stove. Let it steep for about 15 minutes, drain and remove skin and any bones, slice into 2-inch pieces.
Note: To parboil, means to boil the vegetables in salted water until halfway done or ALMOST done, about 5 min for the vegetables above since they will be fairly thin. Be careful not to overcook or they will turn to mush in the oven (you still want some texture to them after the gratin is baked). Drain and set aside. You can do this even a day before if you’d like. When you parboil vegetables before they go in the oven, they bake beautifully, instead of burning on the outside and being raw on the inside (if you were to add them in to the oven raw).
Butter a 13 x 9 inch baking pan, and place all the vegetables in a layer on the bottom. Pour the rendered bacon fat and bacon on top of the vegetables, then top with the fish pieces.
Preheat oven to 400 degree Fahrenheit (200 celcius).
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saute pan over medium heat, whisk in the flour until well integrated. Heat the milk and heavy cream gently in a separate saucepan, and slowly add into the roux while whisking. Add in the nutmeg, herbs, salt and pepper and stir constantly until sauce thickens (a few minutes), and pour over the fish and vegetables. Top with the shredded cheese and place in oven and bake until nice and golden, about 20 minutes. Serve with some good, crusty bread and a nice green salad.
Photo Credit: Synøve Dreyer