Swedish Fish

Reading is fundamental and paying attention is key. I say this often, but occasionally I fail to follow my own guidance on this. Usually it turns out just fine, but with obviously altered results. Ones you didn’t quite expect… This recipe for Pike-Perch with Creamed Mushrooms and Horseradish Butter from Saveur Magazine encouraged me to attempt a cuisine I hadn’t tackled before, but neglecting to read one caption completely generated unintended consequences.

When I was a teenager, my family embarked on a cruise to Russia. Having a mother who faithfully works for an airline comes with benefits in which other families do not typically participate. Our embarkation port was Helsinki, Finland. A beautiful country with beautiful people. So my first taste of Scandinavian cuisine was brief and distant memory. While Scandinavian food doesn’t sounds interesting, I remember liking it even if it is a distant memory.

One of my favorite magazines to read, Saveur’s articles have the ability to not only make me sensate whatever it is they’re telling me about, but also inspires me to branch out into my unknown. It’s really pushed me deeper to exploring and stretching my gifts and talents. So when I read an article in Saveur (The Sunday Suppers Project: A Scandinavian Family Feast) highlighting simple and pure Swedish food, I was inspired by the ingredients listed in the accompanying recipe to take a crack at it!

Horseradish is broadly revered in the Smith House. We hadn’t ever bought it fresh in it’s natural unpeeled form. Always just the prepared form in the jar. This past week, upon influence from a recipe, I purchased a whole horseradish root for the purpose of making horseradish butter to top our perch. A cautionary tale: shredding raw horseradish is similar to cutting a raw white onion. The only and major difference is that it not only beckons the seas from your eyes, but also sends sharp needles through your sinuses. The only solution is to back away quickly.

Now to the part where I overlooked a small bit about the type of fish… The caption above the recipe simply stated, “uses pike-perch, a distinct fish that’s neither pike nor perch but is similar in size and taste to American walleye.” All I guess I saw was the word perch and went from there. Not only is this not the same type of fish, but didn’t exactly react the way the recipe indicated. The recipe described a method that would produce a deliciously crisp skin, but my rendering was a fillet curled inward on the skin itself. The flesh was tender on the inside and lightly crackling on the outside regardless.

Resting the fillets on a bed of piquant creamed mushrooms and lush parsley and layering on an unctuous dose of popping horseradish butter seals the deal on this very non-boring dish. Served alongside a crunchy salad of Marketside Super Blend and deliciously bracing David’s Unforgettables Creamy Balsamic Vinaigrette, the dish of simple and recognizable ingredients made a different cuisine feel homegrown in the end.

More than just meatballs and dill, have you ever tested Scandinavian cuisine? What are your experiences?

What I’m Reading: Something from the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America by Laura Shapiro


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