Three cheers for plukkfisk
Dish up some comfort with Bergen’s traditional dish of cod and potatoes
CHRISTY OLSEN FIELD
Taste of Norway Editor
Plukkfisk is a cozy dinner of creamy mashed potatoes and generous bits of cod, hailing from Bergen and Hordaland County. It’s now popular all over Norway.
Plukkfisk is in a category of Norwegian cuisine that I love the most: husmanskost, or home-cooked food that reflects Norwegian ingredients, flavors, and traditions.
In my research, virtually all the recipes I found called for leftover cod and leftover potatoes. However, I rarely cook fish to have enough for leftovers, so I needed to find an approach to make the dish from scratch.
I love the approach by MasterChef UK contestant Anthony O’Shaughnessy on his blog Anthony Shock: “Gently poach cod fillets in milk, then use the poaching liquid in the mashed potatoes and white sauce. It’s an economical use of the ingredients, and maximizes the flavor of each component.”
Have you ever baked bacon in the oven? It’s a technique that my sister shared with me. The oven’s gentle heat cooks the bacon to golden brown perfection, with none of the splatter from stovetop frying. I also use the oven’s heat to keep the mashed potatoes warm while making the hvit saus, the creamy white sauce, on the stovetop. My taste testers likened plukkfisk to a deconstructed fish chowder. The whole dish can be eaten with a spoon, and it’s comforting in every bite.
I also need to point out that this dish is definitely not low in fat. The butter, whole milk, and bacon are essential to plukkfisk’s flavor! I swapped onions for leeks and fresh herbs for a welcome dose of green. It is traditional to serve flatbrød (flatbread) with plukkfisk, and it adds a crunchy counterpoint to the overall dish. Enjoy!
Did you grow up with plukkfisk? I’d love to hear from you! Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Christy Olsen Field
8 oz. bacon slices
2 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes
1½ pounds cod filets, skin removed
8 tbsps. unsalted butter, divided
2 leeks, cleaned and sliced into half-moons
Handful of fresh herbs, such as parsley or dill
4 cups whole milk
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
Flatbread to serve
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment, and lay the bacon slices in a single layer. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.
- In a large skillet, melt 2 tbsps. butter over medium heat, and add the sliced leeks and a hefty pinch of salt. Sauté until they are soft and beginning to turn golden, about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, start on the potatoes. In a 5-quart pot, place potato cubes with cold water to cover by 1 inch and a handful of kosher salt. Cover and bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer until a fork easily pierces the potato, about 15-20 minutes.
- Now you’ll poach the fish. In the large skillet with the sautéed leeks, add 4 cups of milk and herbs, and bring to a gentle simmer. Gently slide in the cod filets, sprinkle generously with salt, and poach until the flesh is cooked through and beginning to flake, about 7-10 minutes (based on the thickness of the filets). Remove the fish to a plate, and strain the milk into a measuring cup. You should still have about 4 cups of milk.
- At this point, the potatoes will be cooked through. Drain the potatoes, add to an oven-safe bowl, and mash with 2 tbsps. butter and 3/4 cup of the milk to achieve your desired mashed potato consistency. Fold in the strained leeks and herbs. Keep the mashed potatoes warm in the oven, if desired.
- Prepare the hvit saus (white sauce): In a saucepan, melt the remaining 4 tbsps. butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until thoroughly combined. Next, pour in a little of the milk and whisk constantly. It will seize up and create a lot of steam, but keep whisking constantly as you pour in the milk slowly. Once it’s combined, bring to a simmer until it thickens, about 5-10 minutes. Taste for salt to make sure it’s seasoned enough, and add the freshly grated nutmeg. (You can add white pepper if you like.)
- Now you are ready to assemble the dish! Pick the cod into thick pieces (this is the “plukk” part of plukkfisk) and fold gently into the warmed mashed potatoes. Serve with a generous pour of hvit saus, and crumbled bacon. If the dish needs more richness, add a pat of butter. (Or as I saw in one recipe, drizzle with the reserved bacon fat.) Serve with a sprinkle of fresh herbs and flatbread.
If you have any leftovers, I read that the mixture can be shaped into patties and fried in a skillet as potato-fish cakes. If you try this, let me know!
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 23, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.