Tuesday, September 14, 2010

August Cooking Night: Norwegian

Potato Encrusted Halibut, Roasted Zucchini with Onions, Garlic and Rosemary,
and Cardamom Rolls

Finally posting August's cooking night. Apologies for the delay.


August in North Carolina is hot! In fact, its apparently the hottest summer on record! In January, it was so cold the Hawaiian theme seemed appropriate to break the chill. Now, we long for cooler weather. Not as cold as winter, mind you but going over a week with a broken air conditioner in 95+ degree weather is dreadful! It makes cats cry and people struggle to sleep. I'm very thankful that the A/C is fixed. In fact, we couldn't have stood the temp in the kitchen had we not had A/C.

Anyway, I have a recent curiousity with Scandinavian food. Part of this has come as a result of exposure to the PBS program, New Scandinavian Cooking. Its very fun and each season is hosted by a different chef from a different Scandinavian country. Regardless, its hot. So I thought, we could do an Alaskan cooking night or a Norwegian one. Why Norway? Mainly because I was determined to make Baked Alaska. Incidentally, this dessert is also known as a Norwegian omelet. The dessert was renamed in 1846 by a restaurant in honor of Alaskas statehood. It is supposed that the dessert was named for its general appearance looking like the icy geography of Norway. It is comprised of a cake layer at the base, a dome of ice cream on top and meringue piped all over. You freeze it, then either torch the outside with a butane torch or place it in the oven for 5 minutes on a low temperature to brown the meringue.

But I digress, it was either Norway or Alaska so I polled my friends. One friend voiced specific interest in Norway and everyone else was willing to eat whatever I came up with to prepare.

For the entree, I was thinking fish. Obvious, eh? But what kind? After a fair amount of contemplation, I recalled a Bon Appetit issue from a year or so ago in which they made potato encrusted halibut. How did I remember this random tidbit? Who knows? I guess I really liked the technique section in the back, in which they demostrated the technique. I looked for a recipe online but didn't have much luck. I went home and flipped through my issues of bon appetit...bingo. March 2009! With some modifications, we were on our way!

Now we needed vegetation...and bread. I found a fancy bread in Beard's bread called Verterkake...but he said it was difficult. I decided I had no time to practice and didn't want to ruin the bread. Option 2 for Bread's Bread was a Norwegian Whole Wheat Bread...but it couldn't hold my interest. I found cardamom buns using a google search for Norwegian breads and it piqued my interest. I waffled over the wheat bread and decided..who cares, we're making cardamom buns.

Moving on to vegetation, I began looking for Norwegian sides and vegetable recipes. I had seen a recipe for carrot soup on New Scandinavian cooking but when I mentioned it among my friends, I got some disgusted faces and only a couple interested faces. I set that aside for another time and kept looking. Norway mostly grows root vegetables. Items like cabbage, carrots, brussels sprouts, turnips...all the things many people wrinkle up their noses at and say gross! I love carrots but since I knew my friends don't (generally speaking) I needed another option. I turned to my garden produce and another friend mentioned..what about doing something with all that zucchini in your fridge? Great idea, I thought but how do I make it have a Norwegian flair? Garlic, onions and rosemary would complement the fish and would be accessible in Norway. I decided to roast zucchini with them and it'd be good to go.

Recipes ready, it was time to cook! A critical part of group cooking is timing!

Cooking Plan:

1- Start the custard for the ice cream the night before cooking night. (Time saver/Stress reducer: Could prepare ice cream earlier in the week or use store bought.)
2- Morning of cooking night, combine the custard with the cream and place in an ice cream maker for 40-60 minutes until thick. Line a bowl with an ~ 9" diameter base or mid section with saran wrap prior to adding ice cream. Pull out thickened ice cream and place into the lined bowl. Place bowl into freezer for 6-8 hours. If you have it in there longer, bonus. If not, 6 hours will be fine.
3- After getting the ice cream situated, prepare your pound cake in a 9" pan. I recommend a spring form pan as you will minimize the dome this way.
4- 30 minutes to an hour before people arrive, mix up the bread so it can begin rising.
5- Guests are here! Now what? We have meringue to make for the cake, and the cake needs to freeze one hour. Let's start there. Make sure you have a platter that will fit in your freezer too. We made the meringue, brought the ice cream up and set it on top of the cake. A perfect match! We piped the meringue onto the cake...that's right, the four of us took turns. It was very fun. We learned its harder to get the meringue into a piping tool than we expected. Its pretty messy but the merigue was surprisingly tasty so we didnn't mind.
6- After adding the meringue, the cake was placed into the freezer...On with the show.
7- Rolls were risen! Time to punch down the dough, shaped into balls, covered and placed back on the porch to rise some more.
8- Zucchini, onions, garlic and rosemary were chopped and placed into the 9x13" pan. The pan was placed into the preheated oven.
9- Fish! Potatoes were sliced paper thin and halibut was cut into sections while the potatoes were arranged onto silicone mats.
10. The fish was wrapped up and cooked 2 pans at a time with 3 pieces of fish per pan.
11. While the fish cooked, we popped the rolls into the oven for 6 minutes per pan.

Voila...Dinner is served. If you have cooking help arrive at 5pm, you should be done around 7pm. We had a roll delay due to a very busy host schedule but still finished at 7:20pm. All the food was done at the same time.

12. After eating dinner, don't forget dessert! After we were out of our quite full comatose states, the dessert was brought from the freezer, torched with the butan torch and served. Use a big knife and be careful. Frozen pound cake is a challenge to slice.

Potato Encrusted Halibut (significantly adapted from Bon Appetit March 2009)
(serves 10)


2 lbs halibut
5 Yukon Gold potatoes (each about 3 inches in length)
2-3 Tbsp of fresh rosemary
4 cloves of garlic, minced finely
2-3 Tbsp of your oil of choice (I used vegetable oil)


2 frying pans
1 spatula
1 mandolin (or another method of slicing potatoes thinly without slicing your fingers!)
plastic wrap or silicon sheets (for arranging the potatoes with fish)

How To:

Slice the potatoes into paper thin slices (less than 1/8" on the mandolin). The slices should be so thin that they are flexible.

Arrange the potatoes such that they are two slices wide and multiple slices down overlapping the slices. (A fabulous image of this was shown in the techniques section of the March 2009 Bon Appetit magazine.) Basically, you want to lay 2 potato slices with longest part laying horizontally such that they over lap by about 1/4" (or around 1 cm). Then, take two more slices and lay vertically lower than the first two slices such that the tops of the two new slices overlap by 1/4"-1/2" (1-2 cm) over the first two slices. Repeat. The total number of slices should relate to the length of fish sections you cut. If you fish doesn't quite fit, add two more slices to extend the column of potatoes.

Rinse each section of fish. Slice the fish into rectangles 4" long by 1"-1 1/2" wide.

Season the potatoes with salt, pepper, garlic and rosemary. Lay a piece of fish on top of each potato column. (Feel free to season the fish if needed. You really can either season the inside of the potatoes or the outside of the fish. Either way you season the inside but there's no need to season twice. Just select one.)

Rebecca's a lean, mean, potato slicing machine!

Place the Fish on the layered potatoes and season

Wrap the potatoes around the fish to enclose it. Continue repeating above until all fish is seasoned and wrapped in potatoes.

Folding the Potatoes over the fish

Halibut all wrapped up!

Heat 1 Tbsp of oil in each of 2 frying pans using medium heat. Test to see that the oil is hot. (I test by spritzing a little water off my fingertips into the oil and waiting for a hiss and pop...Be sure to step back after doing this to avoid being popped by the oil.) Pick up each fish section carefully using a spatula and gently sit it in the pan. I cooked 3 fish sections in each pan.

Cook the fish for 3-4 minutes on each side until the potatoes are golden brown.

Finished Fish

Total prep time depends on your potato slicing technique. Total Cook time was about 16 minutes. Total time for us (4 gals in the kitchen, assembling together and laughing and talking a bit) was about 40 minutes. We used one person on the mandolin. Two people assembling potatoes. One person slicing fish. Then one of the people cooked the fish....well I cooked the fish. I was nominated.

(I guess that way if the main dish was injured, it was just on me. Fortunately, it came out great. Warning: Flipping the fish should be a careful process as the potatoes can flip over on you and expose the fish. If this happens to you, take the spatula, and gently slide it under the fish and potatoes until they are rearranged. Don't panic. This only happened to me on a couple pieces out of 12 and they were able to go back together.)

Roasted Zucchini with Onions, Garlic and Rosemary
(serves 10)

Zucchini and Veggies in the Pan!


1 huge zucchini (ok so this zucchini was probably the equivalent of 4-6 grocery store zucchini), skinned and sliced into bite sized pieces (1" x 3/4" roughly).
1 large sweet onion, sliced coarsely
4 cloves of garlic, smashed but not minced
4 cloves of garlic, smashed and minced finely
1-2 Tbsp of rosemary, minced finely
2 Tbsp of your oil of choice (again I used vegetable oil)


1 9x13 pan
1 oven
1 large spoon
2 oven mitts

How to:

Cut up the zucchini, onion, garlic, and rosemary as listed above. Toss together into a 9x13 pan with oil, salt and pepper. Place in a 400 F oven for 30-45 minutes.

Total slicing time: 10-15 minutes. Total cooking time: 30-45 minutes. Total time: 40 - 60 minutes.

Cardamom Buns (adapted from Sons of Norway)
(serves 10)

Carolyn and Becky shaping the rolls


1 c. (2.5 dl) milk
4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) (55g) butter
1/2 pkg active dry yeast
1/8 c. (1/4 dl) water, warm
3/8 c. (1 1/8 dl) sugar
1/2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3 whole cardamom seeds (crushed) (1/4 - 1/2 tsp of ground cardamom)
3 1/2 c. flour


1 medium stove pot
1 large bowl
sarap wrap or 2 linen towels
2 cookie sheets/baking sheets
1 oven

How To:

Heat the milk in a pot on medium heat until just before boiling. When a few small bubbles start to form, remove from heat.

Add butter to the milk and let stand until melted and letthe milk cool to lukewarm. (If you're in a hurry, pour the milk/butter mixture into a plastic bowl and sit on ice.)

Place yeast and 1 Tbsp of sugar into the water water and stir. Allow to sit until the yeast is proofed. (Proofed means that you should see bubbles of activity from the yeast. If you have no bubbles, your yeast may be too old. I'd encourage using fresh yeast if you have no bubbles.)

In a large bowl, add remaining sugar, salt, and cardamom.

Pour in lukewarm milk. Add yeast, and enough flour to make a stiff dough. (This should be about 3 1/2 cups.)

Work the dough by folding it over itself for about 2 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl. Rinse the bowl out and grease it.

Place the dough in the greased bowl. Cover with saran wrap or a smooth towel until the dough rises to double in bulk. To rise more quickly, sit in a warm area. I placed mine on the back porch and it doubled in 1 hour.

Punch the dough down and shape into balls the size of ping pong balls. (Ping pong balls are around 1 - 1 1/4" in diameter.)

Place the balls 1 inch (2 1/2 cm) apart on a greased baking sheet. Cover with saran wrap or towels again. Let rise until double in bulk.

Bake at 450 F (230 C) oven for 5-6 minutes. (Seriously, if you go for 7minutes, the bottoms will be dark.) Brush with butter while still hot.

Presenting....our dinner!


Baked Alaska!

See previous post for the details on this one but here are a couple teaser pictures for you. This will be more dessert than 10 people can eat. Its probably around 20 servings. This means you can either make new friends at work or have friends over one night later in the week to help you finish it off!

Plan on making your cake ahead of time and having 8 - 10 hours for freezing everything.

1 comment:

  1. That fish looks amazing. I'll have to try it when I live somewhere I can get tasty fish. :)