One of my BloggerAid buddies, Joan of Foodalogue, is helping to promote hunger awareness through a new event, A Culinary Tour Around the World. We are going to have a virtual tour of many different countries and their culinary traditions starting with Norway.
I had to do a little research on Norwegian cooking, as I tend to favor spicier fare, and found that there was, not surprisingly given Norway's extensive sea coast, a lot of emphasis on fish dishes.
There is also a heavy emphasis on white-colored food, perhaps in honor of the long, snowy winters. The teachings of my junior high school home economics teacher stressing color balance in meal planning kept haunting me as I leafed through the pages of my Time-Life Scandinavian Cookbook and I knew I just couldn't reproduce a white fish with white potatoes with perhaps a jazzy white cauliflower on the side to liven things up.
Luckily, the Internet has many websites devoted to Norwegian culture and I was tempted at last by a Cod Au Gratin recipe that sounded like it would pass muster with the Crispy Family. It was a white-dominant casserole, but I paired it with some steamed peas to break up that Whiter Shade of Pale.
While there was no cod at my supermarket fish counter, there was a sale on frozen Swai (pronounced "Swy") fillets, which are a farm-raised catfish from Vietnam and have a firm flesh and delicate taste. I tinkered with the original recipe a bit, adding gluten-free substitutions and adjusting things as the website recipe seems a bit jumbled at Norway-Hei. I left in the capers, which I love and the rest of my family loathes, and sure enough, they were detected and left on the side of everyone's plate.
The verdict: Basically, this is a variant of the old Tuna Noodle Casserole every Mom in America was required by law to make at least twice monthly during the 1960s-70s. Sub in a can of tuna for the Cod or Swai and mix those peas into the casserole, and it would be indistinguishable from that starchy standby. However, the kids ate it up and thought it was fun to learn a little about Norway. I pulled out the atlas, donned a Viking helmet from the dress-up chest and we had a little Norwegian flag planted in the middle of our dinner, so it was a festive family dinner. I did provide a couple of bottles of hot sauce on the table, including my favorite green hot sauce, Peewee's Green, to add some non-Nordic zing.
Here's the recipe for:
Norwegian Au Gratin Cod (or other Fish)
2 lbs. cooked cod or other firm, white fish like Swai, tilapia, haddock etc.
(I cooked my Swai in a buttered 9x13 glass baking dish which I later reused as my Au Gratin dish. I cooked thawed fillets, patted dry, at 350 degrees for 30 minutes and then after they cooled, mashed them up into small pieces. I saved the cooking juices for my fish broth.)
1 cup fish broth (I used pan juices from cooking the fish and hot water with a fish bouillon cube)
2 cups milk
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
4 Tbsp. butter
5 Tbsp. brown rice flour
2 Tbsp. snipped chives (from my freezer)
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. capers
Salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp. gluten-free bread crumbs
1 (12 oz.) bag gluten-free pasta (I used Bionaturae elbows)
Cook fish as per instructions above.
Meanwhile, cook and drain pasta until al dente. Set aside.
Make white sauce by heating skillet over medium heat and adding butter to melt. Whisk in rice flour, one Tbsp. at a time. Gradually add fish broth and bring just to a boil, while whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Whisk in milk gradually, again, bringing just to a boil, whisking constantly. Add cheese and let melt.
Remove from heat and add nutmeg, chives, salt and pepper to taste, capers and fish. Add eggs and blend together gently and pat into 9x13 glass baking dish. Top with bread crumbs.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until bubbly and lightly browned at edges.
Serves 8 hungry Vikings.
A big thank you to Joan at Foodalogue for hosting this fun event and for linking it to BloggerAid. There are exciting plans for our new group of bloggers united in raising funds and awareness of hunger issues in this New Year, including a cookbook and several other Internet events, so be sure to visit the BloggerAid website and consider joining us.
Next stop in our Culinary Tour: Poland!