When Nina and I were on our honeymoon this summer, one of the best meals we had was in Bergen, Norway at a restaurant called Bare Vestland. Most of the courses were extremely modern and creative but one stood out because of its simplicity and its history as one of Norway’s most well loved peasant dishes. As I was eating it I knew I wanted to try and replicate it when I got home. The dish is called plukkfisk and it is composed of potatoes, cod, leeks, bacon, and a standard bechamel sauce.
The small handful of recipes I was able to find differed in a few ways from the dish we had at Bare Vestland. The restaurant version was more like a loaded mashed potato texture and included pickled leeks as a topping which added a nice acidity. I think (could be wrong) that they also skipped the bechamel in favor of copious amounts of butter. The recipe below is my attempt at molding what we had with what I am seeing online. I was very happy with the results and will definitely make this again.
Plukkfisk (Norwegian Cod and Potatoes)
- 1 large leek or 2 medium, cleaned and chopped
- 1/2 cup cider vinegar
- 1 pound cod
- 5-6 medium yukon gold potatoes
- 1 cup chopped sweet onion
- 5 tablespoons butter, divided
- 2.5 tablespoons flour
- 1.5 cups whole milk
- 4 slices bacon
- Handful of chives, chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
Put half the chopped leeks in a small bowl or coffee cup and add just enough cider vinegar to cover. Set aside.
Place the potatoes in a pot of salted water and boil until almost done (some resistance when piercing them with a knife). Strain and let them cool for a few minutes, then roughly mash. They should resemble loosely mashed potatoes that still have chunks.
In a large heavy pan (this will later need to hold everything), melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium high heat and cook your cod until it flakes easily. Set the fish aside and wipe out the pan. Add the bacon and cook until crisp. Leave about a tablespoon of the grease and then add the onions. Cook until translucent, then add the remaining leeks. Saute for another minute and then reduce the heat to low. Fold the potatoes into the pan, keeping everything at a nice warm temperature.
Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in the flour so it becomes incorporated. Once smooth, start gradually adding in the milk while constantly whisking. Season with salt and pepper and let it simmer for about 7-10 minutes. The sauce should be relatively thick like a sausage gravy.
Flake the fish onto the potatoes and gently mix together. Pour the sauce over the potato/leek/onion/fish mixture, lightly mix together, and season with salt and pepper.
Serve the plukkfisk topped with the crispy bacon, strained pickled leeks, and chopped chives.