Monday, January 5, 2009

Culinary Tour Around the World: Norway

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!


Arlene Delloro said...

Rachel, were you a teacher in a former life? I love your chapeau and the lesson on geography through food is something your children will remember forever. I laughed about your dismay at all white food. This was something my mom used to fret over, though there were so many dishes with tomato in them, she really didn't have any worries.

Gloria Chadwick said...

I love how you got into the spirit of Norway. And your comments about the capers and tuna casserole were really funny! :)

Leo said...

Rachel, this is a hilarious post and picture. Linda will have to weigh in (she of the Norwegian heritage ;-) My vote for your next destination (Poland) is pierogies! Nothing fills the gut and comforts the soul more than pierogies in the winter (or anytime, for that matter ;-)

FOODalogue said...

You're the first (even beat me!)...and I'd venture to say, the funniest! Love it! Great job!

What's Cookin Chicago said...

I love this culinary tour and your pic! Looks delicious :)

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

We eat with our eyes first so I can see how all white food would be very unappealing. You did an excellent job of introducing us to Norwegain cuisine Rachel!!!

Ivy said...

How was your culinary trip to Norway? Cold I bet. I am preparing my dish as well (surprise it is a fish dish as well) and I hope to have it up by Thursday. Why did everyone have to cook tuna casserole twice in the 60s-70s? The dish sounds delicious and you would make a nice Vikings wife :)

Rachel said...

Gee, thanks everyone for your kind comments. I tried to get into the spirit of things with this blog post and in getting my kids to eat this jazzed up macaroni and cheese and fish concoction. As a Jagareski, I will have to do my marital heritage proud and continue on my Culinary Tour.

Ivy: I was being sarcastic when I said everyone had to cook tuna noodle casserole twice by law, as it just seemed like EVERYONE ate this gluey mix of overcooked noodles, tinny-tasting tuna from the can and cream of mushroom soup during the 60s-70s. And don't forget the crushed potato chips on top! LOL

Arlene: I was never a teacher, but I did run a preschool storytime at the local library for several years when my kids were little and this was reminiscent of those themed events. Thankfully, I did not have to memorize a finger rhyme in Norwegian.

brii said... that you in the photo??
you are great!!
what an interessting event...
I think I just will drop by at joan's to read about it :)))

Thistlemoon said...

That was such a fun read! Glad you had fun with your Norwegian adventure!