Saturday, May 01, 2010

Lutefisk, I'm Calling It Quits!

The Sons of Norway lodge of which we are members (Hardanger Lodge) held a membership luncheon today that we attended. It's an annual event, and the idea is for current members to invite prospective members to attend the luncheon, learn more about the organization, eat some free food, meet some fun people, and sign up to become members themselves. We invited our friends/neighbors Chuck and Reba to attend; Reba and their daughter had an errand to run, but Chuck and their son Jack came. We had a good time and enjoyed some homemade rosettes and krumkake for dessert (and even got to bring home some leftover rosettes--awesome!).

(The luncheon was held at the Dickinson Public Library in a large community room that is the result of a recent remodeling/expansion project. I haven't been in the building much, but Susan and the girls are regular visitors and gave me a full tour today before we left. There are some terrific architectural features, including original tin ceilings uncovered and restored during the remodeling project. There's a Frank Lloyd Wright "feel" to the furniture, woodwork, and other details throughout the building. It's really a lovely space.)

It was Susan's turn to help with the weekly Scandinavian Saturday supper, and I took advantage of her culinary expertise by selecting a dessert that seemed kinda difficult to make . . . and then assigning it to her. It turned out great; sadly, that's much, much more than I can say about the fish that I selected for the centerpiece of the meal. Read on:

Colorful plate, huh? The beverages are milk and Rosa Regale. That's lefse rolled up at the top of the plate and a dish of melted butter beside it for the lutefisk at the bottom of the plate. To the left is a portion of gulrot salat med persille og pinjekjerner, and to the right is bakt asparges salat.

Here's the platterful of the fish that made us all sad during supper. You may recall my rants and stories about lutefisk ["lye fish"] or my failed experiment last summer during which I tried to cook it on the grill to make it less disgusting than it is when baked or boiled (the traditional means of preparation). I decided to give it another try tonight, this time baking it in the oven as the instructions on the package recommended. I then sprinkled it with allspice, salt, and ground black pepper as recommended by a recipe that I found online.

Well, the baking in the oven allowed the chemically treated fish to stew in its own juices and boil away into a puddle of dissolved fish substance--i.e., the same gelatinous goo that I've encountered at pretty much every lutefisk supper I've ever attended. (Seriously, reread this.) The color and texture on the plate and the texture and flavor in the mouth were unappetizing, to say the least, and the allspice and melted butter didn't do enough to elevate the gustatory experience to an acceptable level. We soldiered on until we had eaten about half of our portions, and then we called it quits, finishing everything else and throwing the remaining lutefisk (and, later, making a large bowl of popcorn to share--a much better use of melted butter).

We love asparagus, so we were likely to enjoy the bakt asparges salat ["baked asparagus salad"] no matter what. We coated the spears in a mixture of olive oil, lemon zest, fresh lemon juice, salt, and pepper and baked them until just tender (and still slightly crunchy). It was an interesting variation from the usual steaming, roasting, and grilling recipes that we use for fresh asparagus.

This was a tasty twist on serving carrots, too. The gulrot salat med persille og pinjekjerner ["carrot salad with parsley and pine nuts"] required us to use a vegetable peeler to cut carrots into long, thin ribbons; toast pine nuts on the stove top; and toss them with chopped parsley, olive oil, the juice from a lemon, and salt and pepper. The lemon juice and the crunchiness made this carrot salad a good match for the asparagus salad. (By the way, both vegetable recipes came from a cookbook by Trina Hahnemann.)

Last Saturday Susan and the girls bought homemade lefse [a soft flatbread made from potatoes] at a bake sale sponsored by Hardanger Lodge, so we ate some with supper tonight. It was perfectly made and so delicious spread with butter and sprinkled with sugar (brown or white, according to one's mood). Those fingers are Susan's as she prepares some lefse for a daughter. Notice that the lefse has been rolled out expertly and is so thin that the pattern on our place mat can be seen through it! Lefse aficionados will note, too, the perfect semicircular shape and the color: just enough brown spots from the griddle to prove that it has been cooked without being burnt.

For dessert we enjoyed ingefær kake med kremfløte ["ginger cake with whipped cream"]. I whipped the cream into a sweet, vanilla-y cloud of goodness, and Susan made the rather time- and work-intensive cake recipe. She pulsed flour and crystallized ginger in a food processor until finely chopped. In a separate bowl, she beat together butter and salt and then gradually added dark brown sugar, egg yolks, corn syrup, and the ginger/flour mixture. In yet another bowl, she beat egg whites with salt and then folded them into the batter a little at a time, alternating the whites with more flour.

The cake was cooled enough to remove from the pan by the time we were ready for dessert but still slightly warm. Each slice was soft and melt-in-your-mouth on the inside but crunchy on the outside with a crust that was sugary and chewy, as though ribbons of toffee ran throughout it. The crystallized ginger gave the cake a distinctive flavor that was offset nicely by the whipped cream. And what a pleasant way to end a meal that started so nastily.

1 comment:

  1. I am perfectly content to consume lutefisk only at the annual Sons of Norway supper. We'll just have to work non-lutefisk cod into our rotation more often :-)