Comfort food from Norway

Turn fish leftovers into a cozy dish of fiskegrateng for a satisfying supper

fiskegrateng

Photo: Sara Johannessen / Matprat
Fiskegrateng combines leftover fish and macaroni with a creamy white sauce, and it is topped with breadcrumbs and baked to bronzed perfection.

CHRISTY OLSEN FIELD
Taste of Norway Editor
The Norwegian American

I’m back with another norsk husmanskost dish, the everyday comfort food of Norway. Fiskegrateng, also known as Fish Au Gratin or Fish and Macaroni Casserole, creatively repurposes fish leftovers into a simple, yet deeply satisfying meal, perfect for a cold winter’s night.

Fiskegrateng is simple: fish in bite-sized pieces with macaroni in creamy hvitsaus (white sauce, also known as béchamel), topped with breadcrumbs, and baked to bronzed perfection. One thing that sets it apart from American fish casseroles is the addition of whipped egg whites, which gives it an airy, soufflé-like texture. It is an extra step and bowl to wash, but I find it is well worth it!

In my research, I found that fiskegrateng ingredients are flexible. Most recipes add sliced leeks, some people add peas or chopped broccoli, others add cheese. My version adds sliced leeks, frozen green peas, and a mix of cod and salmon for a colorful dish.

I also learned that fiskegrateng is often served with a shredded carrot salad for a bright and crunchy counterpoint. French carrot salad is one of my all-time favorite side dishes, so here’s my version. I often buy a bag of shredded carrots to make it quickly, but I will say that freshly grated carrots (either by hand or in the food processor) make for the best flavor.

The success to this dish is seasoning: Adding enough salt to each component makes sure that the flavors sing in harmony. I use heavily salted water to cook the macaroni and fish, and I also taste the hvitsaus (white sauce) and add salt to ensure the sauce is flavorful, not bland. 

Looking for a plant-based option? Our friend and talented vegan chef Sunny Gandara offers a wonderful vegan fiskegrateng version that features mixed mushrooms and a creamy cashew sauce. Check it out on her website: sunnygandara.com/fiskegrateng-norwegian-fish-au-gratin-sans-the-fish.

Did you grow up with fiskegrateng? What’s your favorite way to have fish leftovers? I’d love to hear from you! Write to me at food@na-weekly.com.

Photo: Margrethe Myhrer/ Matprat

Hjemmelaget fiskegrateng
Fish Au Gratin, or Homemade Fish and Macaroni Casserole
By Christy Olsen Field

3 eggs
1 cup dried macaroni
1 lb. fish filets of your choice (you can substitute leftover fish)
4 tbsps. (½ stick) unsalted butter
4 tbsps. all-purpose flour
3 cups milk, warmed for 1-2 minutes in the microwave
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
½ of one leek, cleaned and thinly sliced into half-moons
1 cup green peas (frozen is fine)
½ cup seasoned breadcrumbs or crushed crackers

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Separate the eggs into two small bowls. Set aside. (Egg whites beat faster when they are at room temperature.)
  3. Fill a 5-quart pot with water and a handful of salt, bring to a boil over high heat. The water should be as salty as seawater. Add the noodles and cook to al dente, as indicated on the package. Strain out the noodles and set aside in a large bowl. 
  4. Turn down the boiling water to a simmer, and add fish filets if you are not using leftover fish. Simmer until cooked through, about 5 minutes. 
  5. Remove and set on a plate to cool for a few minutes, and separate into bite-sized chunks. Add the fish to the large bowl along with the peas. 
  6. Next, prepare the hvitsaus (white sauce). In a medium saucepan, melt 4 tbsps. butter. Add in the flour and whisk until thoroughly combined.  
  7. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, as the mixture bubbles and turns a golden brown. Add a bit of the warmed milk, whisking constantly. The mixture will seize up and bubble furiously, but it will smooth out. 
  8. Add the rest of the milk, a little at a time, and whisk constantly until all the milk is added. Bring to a simmer until it thickens into a nice sauce, about 5-10 minutes. Whisk in the leeks and nutmeg, and add salt to taste. 
  9. Set the sauce aside to cool for a couple minutes, and whisk in the egg yolks, one by one. Add the sauce to the large bowl, and gentley fold everything together with a rubber spatula.
  10. Next, whip the egg whites to stiff peaks. I do this with my stand mixer, but you can do it with a whisk or hand mixer. 
  11. Fold the egg whites gently into the fish mixture.
  12. Butter a 9×13 inch pan, and transfer the mixture to the pan. Scatter breadcrumbs on top. 
  13. Bake for 30 minutes or until deeply golden browned on top. 
  14. Serve with boiled potatoes and carrot salad (recipe follows). Enjoy!

Fransk gulrotsalat
French Carrot Salad

By Christy Olsen Field

1 lb. carrots, peeled
Juice of ½ lemon
½ tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. honey
2 tbsps. olive oil
Salt to taste
2 tbsps. flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

  1. Grate the carrots using a box grater or food processor.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and honey until combined.
  3. Whisk in olive oil, a little bit at a time, to make the dressing. Taste for seasoning, and add salt if needed.
  4. Add the carrots and chopped parsley, and toss to combine. Enjoy!

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 29, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

Christy Olsen Field

Christy Olsen Field

Christy Olsen Field became the Taste of Norway Editor in April 2019. She worked on the editorial staff of the Norwegian American Weekly from 2008 to 2012. An enthusiastic home cook and baker, she lives north of Seattle with her husband and two young sons. She is also a grantwriter for small nonprofits in the Seattle area.

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