Thursday, 15 December 2016

Jansson's temptation - Swedish potato and anchovy bake (gluten-free, kosher)

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Jansson's temptation is a Swedish comfort food classic and one of their most beloved Christmas staples. It is as easy as it is delicious - this is not the time to scrimp on butter and cream!

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My, my, the blog has celebrated the humble potato lately! First I shared my secrets to the perfect mashed potatos and then I started rolling out souvenirs from my trip to Bulgaria in the form of patatnik, potato and mint omelette.

Now I'm introducing you guys to a Swedish classic that could not be better suited for this time of the year: Jansson's temptation. Though the dish, named after a Swedish opera singer and a bona fide bon vivant,  has become a crucial part of the Swedish Christmas feast, its roots are actually in a completely different kind of merrymaking. 

Pella Janzon, you see,was known not just for his bass bariton, also for the parties he threw after the performances; feasts that consisted of beer, schnapps and anhovy gratin. Later it has become a popular late night/ early morning snack.
The tangy saltiness of the anchovies, richness of the cream, comforting nature of the potato and the sweetness of the onions is a combination I've loved since childhood - well, after my parents finally managed to convince me (ever the cheese phobe) that the dish contains absolutely no cheese, anyway. I'm sure that didn't take much longer than a decade...

The dish is easy and only requires a handful of ingredients. But, all the more reason to bear in mind the following tips:

- Take your time sautéeing the onions so they're properly soft as that's when their sweetness really comes out to play
- Use double cream. Don't even think about casting looks at those light cream atrocities or substituting it with fish stock. No. You can diet tomorrow. 
- Do not discard the liquid from the anchovies - mix it with cream and use it in cooking.

And then off to the most important thing:

- when we Scandinavians use the wor anchovy, we're not actually talking about anchovies (why we do that, then, is anyone's guess). 

Therefore I would not attempt to make this with the actual anchovies. Fish which in Scandinavia is sold as anchovy (or Jansson's fillets) is actually sprat, marinated in a very particular, salty, sweet and tangy mixture. You should be able to get your hands on them in Swedish/ Nordic shops. As an emergency plan you could also use marinated matjes herring (matjes sill) which you can pick up at any IKEA.

The puritanists would probably stone me for using chives, but I like the greenness and freshness they lend the dish. But, feel free to omit it.

Serves 6 - 8

Jansson's temptation - a Swedish potato and anchovy bake:

2 large onions (or 3 small ones)
8-19 large potatos (total weight 1 1/4 kg)
2 tins (á 125 g) marinated sprats/ Jansson's filéer
4-5 dl heavy cream
1 tsp black pepper
a bunch of chives

For frying: butter

Start with the onion. Peel and finely slice them and sauté, in a  couple oftablespoons of butter over low heat in a pan. In the meanwhile prep the remaining ingredients. 

Peel the potato, cut into slices and then into thin strips. Drain the sprats (reserving the liquid) and cut lengthwise in half. Finely shop the chives. Combine cream with the sprat marinade (1/2 dl), whisk until smooth and season with salt and pepper.

Grease the oven proof dish you're using with butter. Lay half of the potatos into the dish, followed by a  layer of onions, 4 tablespoons of chives, sprats and top with the remaining half of the potatos. 

Pour the cream mixture over the bake and sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of butter on top in small knobs.

Bake at 220 (in a convection oven 200 will do) in the lower part of the oven for about an hour. In case the bake starts getting too much colour for your liking, cover it with a piece of foil.

Scatter the remaining chives on top and serve!

Any of you guys familiar with this Jansson's temptation yet? Are you puritanists when it comes to Christmas traditions or have any foreign dishes made it onto your Christmas tables?



Patatnik_bulgarialainen perunamunakas      


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