I’m always looking for new recipes or different ways to cook proteins. Living in the U.S, I find that most people under utilize fish, as I sometimes think that people find it a bit intimidating to cook it. Preparing fish is the easiest thing in the world and so tasty, not to mention healthy. I miss my weekly fish dinners I grew up with in Norway and my goal for the remainder of the year is to cook more of it, not just to get more variety in my diet but also because it’s incredibly nutritious and flavorful! Fish is delicate, so the idea is to be gentle with it, so as to let the mild flavors and soft texture shine. You can certainly play around with spices and seasonings, just make sure that whatever fish you pick will be able to hand it. Heartier spices can be used for meatier fish like salmon and swordfish, for instance, while lighter fish such as pollock, and cod would taste best if using milder spices.
The fish market in Bergen (Fisketorget):
Plukkfisk is a classic Norwegian dish which consists of pieces of fish, potatoes and onion cooked in a bechamel sauce. The dish is originally from Hordaland county, on the west coast of Norway and the home of the second largest city in the country, Bergen. Cod is traditionally used as the fish, but you can use any white fish you like. Some people like regular cod or klippfisk (dried cod) instead of lightly salted cod, while others swear pollock is the best. Regardless of what you decide, the common denominator of this dish is that it is incredibly delicious and satisfying. When mentioning this dish to many of my Norwegian friends, they get a sort of dreamy look on their face, followed by “oh my, my mouth is watering by just you mentioning the name plukkfisk!” Today this dish is enjoyed all over Norway, so we certainly thank Hordaland for coming up with this delicacy!
“Plukk” means “pick” in Norwegian, and refers to the fact that you pick the fish and the dish is served in small pieces. Plukkfisk has been likened to that of the French “brandade”, and I’ve seen international varieties of this dish served with mashed potatoes, garlic and olive oil, which is also quite tasty.
Image from morgenbladet.no
Back when I grew up in Norway, it wasn’t uncommon for families to serve fish two, three, even four times a week. As kids we weren’t exactly jumping up and down about this, but plukkfisk seemed to always be a popular dinner. Perhaps because of the white sauce, the hearty potatoes and the bacon that went with it, it was less “boring” and packed a lot more flavor than many other dishes. A very popular weekday dinner choice, it’s also easy to put together. Today you find people serving serrano ham or prosciutto with the fish as a fancy alternative to the bacon, but in general, the dish is not as common as it used to be. Many Norwegians probably recall getting plukkfisk served whenever they visited their grandparents. It’s also one of those dishes that were made of leftovers which is why it has also been referred to as the fish version of lapskaus. As with many classic foods however, I see this becoming trendy among the younger population once again, and many restaurants and chefs have created updated, more sophisticated recipes using klippfisk as inspiration.
There are many variations of klippfisk, and as always – you will find a myriad of sides to go with it. Grated carrots in form of a slaw is also nice, mixed in with a squeeze of fresh orange juice. When making this though, remember that butter is the most important ingredient. Don’t be afraid to use a little extra in this dish, as it is considered to be the most important flavor. The below recipe is inspired from a recipe I saw on matprat.no – you can use this as a foundation to build your own dish or follow it precisely. Like many dishes in the Norwegian cuisine, this dish as a great taste but may look a bit “pale” , so it’s nice to garnish it with some green, fresh herbs in addition to the bacon to liven it up a bit.
PLUKKFISK MED BACON
1 1/2 lb of cod, cleaned and picked of bones, cooked
10 Yukon gold potatoes
2 Vidalia onions, thinly sliced
1 leek, thinly sliced
3 tbsp butter
1 1/2 tsp salt
white pepper to taste
For the bechamel sauce:
5 tbsp butter
5 tbsp all purpose flour
1 quart whole milk
salt and pepper to taste
freshly grated nutmeg (about 1/2 tsp)
12 slices thick bacon
Boil the potatoes in a pot of salted water, until almost done (some resistance when piercing them with a fork or cake tester). Let them cool and dice into cubes.
To make the sauce, gently heat the milk in a small saucepan. Melt the butter in a saute pan over medium heat, add in the flour. Let it form a roux (but not brown) and start gradually adding in the warm milk while constantly whisking. Season with salt and pepper and let cook for about 10 minutes. The sauce should be relatively thick.
In another large sauce pan, melt the butter and saute the onions and leek until translucent and soft, about 10 minutes. Add in the cubed potatoes, bechamel sauce and pieces of fish and let simmer on low heat for a couple of minutes to let the flavors blend. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Saute the bacon in a dry pan until crisp. Serve the plukkfisk topped with the crispy bacon, additional sliced leeks or chopped chives, and a dollop of butter and flatbrød or regular bread.
Photo Source: http://www.dinmat.no