Every country has its culinary specialties. Nostalgic memories tug at your heart strings if, when separated by distance, these favorites are set before you. Norway’s lutefisk is such a specialty to many.
Lutefisk (dried cod treated with lye) must surely be the strangest culinary effort credited to the Norwegians, but what a treat it is when prepared properly. Of course, not everyone is a devotee of lutefisk, but those who are defend it vehemently. Others go to the opposite extreme and claim it’s a national disgrace. In years past, the homemaker had to go through the complicated task of treating the dried fish with lye, but now, even in America, frozen lutefisk is readily available at selected fish markets and at Scandinavian delicatessens.
Cooking lutefisk the old-fashioned way: Do not cook in aluminum vessels as it will darken the kettle. Use three level tablespoons of salt for each quart of water. Bring water to boil, add salt and return to boil. Add fish, which has been sliced into serving-sized pieces, and again return to boil, then remove from the heat. Skim, and let fish steep for 5 to 10 minutes depending on thickness. Serve at once.
Without adding water: Put serving-sized pieces of lutefisk in a kettle. Season each pound (450 g) of fish with 1/2 tablespoon of salt and place the kettle over low heat. This allows the water to be drawn out. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Let steep 5 to 10 minutes. Serve at once.
Baking in foil: Heat oven to 400° F (205° C). Skin side down, arrange lutefisk on a sheet of double aluminum foil and season with salt. Wrap foil tightly around fish and place on rack in a large pan and bake 20 minutes. Cut corner from foil and drain out excess water. Serve at once.
Lutefisk with a firm texture can be obtained by first sprinkling with coarse salt and allowing to stand several hours. Rinse well in cold running water, and soak in unsalted water. Then cook or bake as desired.
Lutefisk must be served hot on piping-hot plates. Accompaniments vary from bacon or pork drippings to white sauce, mustard sauce or melted butter, which seems to remain a favorite. Boiled and steamed potatoes with stewed whole, dry green peas are a must as a vegetable accompaniment. The only other necessary additions are freshly ground pepper, lefse, or flatbread. In some parts of Northern Norway, lutefisk is served with melted goat cheese.