Sorry, lutefisk lovers, you’ve been eating it all wrong.
Forget the cream sauce or melted butter, but add bacon, said Andreas Berg, head chef on Norway’s MS Nordlys ships. His method is to salt the lutefisk and then drain the resulting liquid. Then, before serving, he tops it with bits of bacon that have been fried in butter. Really. The butter is necessary, Berg insisted.
And that’s not all. If you happen to have a little melted fat from a lamb dish you’ve fixed, drizzle that on the fish, too.
“Traditionally, lutefisk is also served with pea purée and boiled potatoes and sometimes mustard and aquavit,” Berg said.
His style of lutefisk is served during the Christmas season in Norwegian homes, and it is also an entree aboard the Nordlys, one of the 11 Hurtigruten (Coastal Express) ships that make their leisurely way up and down the west coast of Norway.
One passenger on a recent Nordlys voyage — Jan Ommundsen of Arendal, Norway — was pleased that lutefisk wasn’t on the menu during his time on board.
“At Christmas,” he said, “it’s common for a group of men to go out for lutefisk, and they have a little piece of lutefisk and a lot of whiskey.”
Some Norwegians even reserve a special day for lutefisk. Torunn Karin Kolås of Lindås, Norway, said, “At home, we always had lutefisk on the day after Christmas and we put bacon and lamb fat on it.”
The bacon-strewn lutefisk may seem like heresy to Minnesota’s Norwegian-Americans. The very idea elicited sounds of protest from a few customers at Ingebretsen’s on E. Lake Street in Minneapolis during a recent visit. Even some folks who are regulars at lutefisk suppers were skeptical.
“They never served it with bacon at any of the Sons of Norway Nidaros Lodge dinners I used to work at,” said Mary Ann Lundberg of Maple Plain.
Nevertheless, when in Norway, and sometimes Sweden, too, said Marie Bäckström of Ystad, Sweden, it wouldn’t be lutefisk without bacon.
Anne Gillespie Lewis, of Minneapolis, is the author of “Ingebretsen’s Saga” and “A Perfect Tree for Christmas.”