Recipe of the week
A grandmotherly gateway to Nordic cooking
“When I ask friends why they don’t cook more fish, the most common answer is a shoulder shrug,” said Katrín Björk in From the North: A Simple and Modern Approach to Authentic Nordic Cooking (Page Street). Having grown up in Iceland, where we ate fresh fish multiple times a week, I can’t understand such thinking. But I’m here to help. The recipe below is “close to my heart, as it is my grandma’s”—but it can also inspire a novice to start cooking fish more often. “It is a simple and no-fuss kind of recipe, but it is bulletproof—as long as you are using fresh fish.”
Selecting fresh fish at the market isn’t hard. Just look for fillets with firm flesh, and no gaps, brown edges, or sign of blood. Also, the smell should be fresh, never fishy.
One great advantage of this recipe is that you can make a double batch, because the cakes freeze so well. They can be reheated in butter with some grated nutmeg, or simply thawed and served cold on a slice of Danish rye bread.
Icelandic fish cakes
12 celery leaves
½ cup vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
1 lb cod fillets
2 small yellow onions, quartered
3 tbsp potato starch
3 tbsp flour
1 stick butter
½ cauliflower head
Pinch of nutmeg
Fennel fronds for garnish
Start by pickling the celery leaves. If the leaves are soggy or soft, place them in ice water for a few minutes to crisp them up. Whisk together vinegar, ½ cup water, and sugar; season with a pinch of salt. Place celery leaves in marinade and let sit for 20 minutes.
Rinse and dry fish fillets, then place in a food processor along with onions, eggs, potato starch, flour, and 2 tsp salt. Pulse until creamy and fluffy. Using two tablespoons, mold fish mixture into approximately 16 quenelles (elongated egg shapes). Working in batches to avoid crowding the pan, fry fish cakes in ½ stick butter over medium heat until nicely browned and cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes each side. Remove from pan and keep warm until serving.
Cut cauliflower into florets. Keep some whole, and thinly slice a few of them. Melt ½ stick butter in the unwiped fish pan, letting it brown slightly. Grate in nutmeg and then fry half the cauliflower for a few minutes. Keep other half of the cauliflower fresh and as is.
Place four fish cakes on each plate along with a few pickled celery leaves, fresh and fried cauliflower, and fennel fronds. Spoon nutmeg butter generously on top. Serves 4.