Nordic style oven baked fish gratin.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

One of the absolute easiest Nordic dishes to put together when expecting friends for dinner is a fish gratin. It’s like an all-in-one recipe. You take a freshly caught cod, have it filleted, put it in a glass or ceramic tin, add some butter, salt and white pepper. Add a cover of white bechamel sauce, stir in some dill. Wait for the magic to happen in the oven and dribble some newly peeled shrimps on top just ahead of serving. A slice of lemon and a fresh piece of dill adds merriness to the eyes. Freshly boiled potatoes – or why not surround the fish with a generous surrounding wall of mashed potatoes, or Pommes duchesse; great either ways as long as you are generous with the butter – and bake the whole thing together. Wine paring is easy as long as it is Chardonnay but admittedly now when the spring is approaching, I’d consider a rosé while the gratin is taking care of itself.

Upon arriving in Northern Norway slightly more than a year ago, a main curiosity was to find out what the region had to offer for traditional dishes. Tromsø’s main historic economic activities were being base to arctic hunting and whaling. It is today well known for landing some of the world’s freshest, highest quality fish. It is thus not surprising (or I might have well guessed, but didn’t) that fish pie or fish gratin served with mashed potatoes on the side is one such traditional dish. As testament to its popularity in households, you can find ready made fish gratin sold in individually packed boxes at the local grocers in Tromsø.

Most fish gratin recipes are not particular about the variety of fish used, from haddock and cod to salmon. Some recipes also call for a mixture of fish to give fuller flavour and texture. There are however, regional variations for this coastal dish. In the coastal regions of the UK, it’s called fish pie [1], and it is cooked with spinach leaves and peas. In Norway, cod is specified as choice of fish [2]. Added spice is sparce, a hint of nutmeg, with butter and salt being the main components of Norwegian fish gratin. Good background knowledge to the minimal use of spice in Norwegian fish gratin is that the fish, particularly skrei or wild caught cod when in season, are some of the most flavourful fish to eat without much adulteration to them in the recipe.

This simple dish is complemented by a cup of strong coffee thereafter, and in this instance, accompanied by a raspberry filled cookie. Never tiring of the main dish itself, fish gratin, when paired with a cool climate white wine, is a simple meal I look forward to time and again.

Raspberry jam cookies.

[1] Pattison, J. (2020). Quick fish gratin, BBC. Internet resource at Retrieved 20200521.
[2] Seafood from Norway. Norwegian Fish Gratin. Internet resource at Retrieved 20200521.
[3] Swedish Food. Janssons frestelse: Potato and fish gratin (Jansson’s temptation). Internet resource at Retrieved 20200521.