A tasty Swedish temptation for New Year’s Eve and all year round
Lori Ann Reinhall
The Norwegian American
I’ll never forget one holiday season I spent in Norway 10 years ago, with all the delicious julemat on the Christmas table. The Norwegian julebord is full of delights—ribbe, pinnekjøtt, medisterpølse, surkål, lutefisk, and risengrynsgrøt, just to name a few—yet for me, with a heritage that in part goes back to Sweden, there was something missing.
In Sweden, there is a wonderful potato casserole called Janssons frestelse, “Jansson’s Temptation,” and somehow I just can’t live without it during the winter holidays. In fact, this Swedish dish is so good that it is served all year round, especially in the cold winter months. It is also popular at Easter, and it is an important part of the traditional Swedish smörgåsbord.
Hands down, Janssons frestelse, or “Janssons,” as it is popularly known, is the most popular late-night meal in Sweden, a “vickning” as the Swedes say. The word comes from German “wickeln,” which means to wrap up, and, indeed, Janssons frestelse is a great way to wrap up your evening with something delicious and warm, perfect for a New Year’s Eve celebration. It’s best served with a cold glass of beer or cup of warm Swedish glögg, to be followed by an aquavit chaser.
It has often been claimed that the Swedish national dish originated with the opera singer Pelle Janzon (1844-89), who is also remembered as a gourmand. Others believe that the name was borrowed from a film called Janssons frestesle from 1928, starring the popular actor Edvin Adophson. Whatever its origin, we are glad the recipe eventually made its way into Swedish cookbooks, so we can enjoy this delectable temptation today.
I have to admit that while I love to read recipes, coming from a cooking family, I rarely use them, relying on my own memory and palate in the kitchen. Fortunately, I have made Janssons frestelse so many times, that coming up with a recipe for you was as easy as 1-2-3. I hope you will enjoy this delicious late-night treat, be it when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve or any other time of the year.
By Lori Ann Reinhall
7 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and sliced
julienne style, about the size of a matchstick
2 ½ tbsp. butter (do not use margarine or butter substitutes)
2 tbsp. oil
3 large yellow onions
16 filets of Swedish anchovies (sprats), drained, saving the liquid
1 ½ cups heavy cream (again, use the real thing)
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Slice the potatoes into strips and place them in cold water to keep from discoloring.
- Slice the onions into thin strips.
- Heat 2 tbsp. of butter and 2 tbsp. of oil in a 10- to 12-inch skillet over medium heat. When the foam subsides, add the onions and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until they are soft but not brown.
- Drain the potatoes and pat them dry with a towel.
- Brush the bottom of a 2-quart baking dish with the remaining butter.
- Arrange one layer of potatoes on the bottom of the dish, followed by a layer of onions and a layer of anchovies. Sprinkle with a little white pepper and sugar.
- Follow with subsequent layers until all the ingredients are used up.
- Mix the anchovy juices with the heavy cream, and pour one half of the mixture over the casserole layers.
- Bake for 25 minutes, pour on the rest of the cream mixture and bake for another 15-20 minutes until the top is crusty and brown. You can pierce the potatoes with the sharp knife to make sure they are done, and you will see that most of the liquid has been absorbed.
Important note: The “anchovies” are the key ingredient in this dish and are not the usual variety found in American grocery stores. They can be described as spiced-cured sprat fillets and can be found in specialty Scandinavian stores.
Side note: Some people like to sprinkle breadcrumbs on the top of the casserole, but in my family, we enjoy the taste of the burnt cream at the top of the casserole, brown and crusty. You may also want to pour a bit of burnt butter over it when it is ready to serve. This dish is not heart-healthy and definitely not intended for weight loss, but it is a special treat to eat on special occasions—enjoy!
This article originally appeared in the December 27, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American.