A vintage Norwegian cod dinner
“Prince Fish” is not new or inventive, but its nostalgic taste hits the spot every time
Taste of Norway Editor
The book smells of old cabin wood, dusty, stale, with a hint of cedar. Printed back in the 1960s, it’s more than a half century old, in pristine condition apart from the torn corners of the jacket. Flipping through the unmarked, thick creamy pages and the still-crisp yet rustic deckle edge, I can’t help but wonder if it had been forgotten on a bookshelf decades ago.
I love old cookbooks and have collected many Scandinavian and Nordic ones throughout the years. They offer clues to another time, often in subtle ways, and I can’t help but wonder how these might provide clues into what life must have been like for past generations of my family. I found my copy of The Complete Scandinavian Cookbook by Alice B. Johnson at Powell’s Books in Portland a while back. Nestled among Scandinavian and Nordic cookbooks both old and new in the high, crowded shelves, it made its way to mine, where I had all but forgotten it again until a couple of years ago when I set out to create a spring meal. With recipes grouped by country, it made it easy for me to go straight to the section on Norway and draft a menu for a vintage Norwegian dinner featuring one of the country’s most beloved fish: cod.
Gently poached and then dressed in a creamy white sauce accented with a hint of mustard, the cod is simple yet flavorful. Vibrant asparagus gives the otherwise pale dish a splash of color. I served it alongside a dish of wilted cabbage with pieces of crunchy bacon and flecks of fresh dill.
I’ve preserved the essence of the recipe but have tweaked it a bit to reflect my tastes—primarily with the addition of a little mustard in the white sauce, a touch that livens it up and makes it something I can’t get enough of. There’s something deliciously old school about this recipe. It’s neither new nor inventive, rather traditional and just the thing to trigger nostalgia in each and every bite.
To complete the meal, consider serving it with boiled potatoes and the flavor-packed wilted cabbage with fresh dill and bacon (kål med dill og flesk) in our archives: www.norwegianamerican.com/food/typisk-norsk-fare-cozy-kal-and-bacon.
“Prince Fish” with Asparagus and White Sauce (Prinsefisk)
approx. 1½ pounds of cod fillets, skin & bones removed
salt & pepper
1 bunch fresh asparagus
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
¼ tsp. salt
2 tbsps. butter
2 tbsps. flour
1 cup milk
1⁄3 cup heavy cream
¼ cup whole grain mustard
1⁄8 tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 400°F. Pat cod dry and season with salt and pepper, then set aside.
Place asparagus spears in a baking dish and toss with olive oil and salt, then roast until tender, 10-15 minutes, depending on thickness. Cover and keep warm.
While the asparagus roasts, place the cod in a large pan in a single layer and pour water around to just cover. Gently poach until just cooked through. Reserve a cup or so of the water and drain, covering the cod to keep it warm.
To make the sauce, melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Stirring constantly, add flour until it seizes up, then gradually pour in the milk while continuing to stir until it thickens a bit. Pour in the heavy cream and add mustard and salt, continuing to stir until it starts to reach a boil. Taste and adjust the salt as needed. If you need to loosen it up a bit, add a little of the reserved water, starting with a tablespoon or two, until it reaches the desired consistency.
Arrange the asparagus on a platter. Place the cod on top, then generously pour over the sauce. Boiled potatoes would be a perfect accompaniment. Serves 4.
Adapted from Outside Oslo, a Scandinavian food blog by Daytona Strong: www.outside-oslo.com/norwegian-prince-fish-with-asparagus.
Daytona Strong is The Norwegian American’s Taste of Norway Editor. She writes about her family’s Norwegian heritage through the lens of food at her Scandinavian food blog, www.outside-oslo.com. Find her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/OutsideOslo), Twitter (@daytonastrong), Pinterest (@daytonastrong), and Instagram (@daytonastrong).
This article originally appeared in the February 8, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.