Some days you just need something with a bit of depth and a bit of warmth. An all-in-one meal straight from the oven and dished out directly from its hot container. Nothing too fancy or fussy. A good, classic meal that you can always count on. Understated, but gives you that cozy feeling with each bite. For me, that’s fiskegrateng.
Fiskegrateng is the very definition of comfort food. This is a beloved and popular dish throughout Norway and has had a constant place in cookbooks and homes throughout the 20th and 21st century, possibly even before. It’s an ideal way to use up leftover fish or just serve fish for dinner that everyone is bound to enjoy. It’s almost like a mac & cheese – just swap out the cheese for the fish.
The premise of the dish is simple. White fish, a béchamel sauce and a topping of browned breadcrumbs (hence the ‘grateng’ or ‘gratin’). How you choose to build upon the casserole is entirely up to you. Many will argue the need for macaroni, some will add cheese, some will have more sauce, some will have more fish. I have found that my ideal fiskegrateng leans toward the creamier side with a good amount of fish and macaroni and some leek thrown in for good measure. And last, but certainly not least, a topping of buttery and garlicky breadcrumbs.
A good sign of any casserole is when you take it out of the oven and the sauce is bubbling up on the sides and there a slightly burnished top layer just waiting to be cracked into. This recipe will not disappoint!
Fiskegrateng (Fish Casserole with Macaroni & Garlicky Breadcrumbs)
- 500g boneless, skinless white fish, such as cod (frozen, fresh, or cooked)
- 150 g (1 cup) dry macaroni
- ½ large leek, cleaned and sliced
- 6 Tb (85g) butter
- 4 ½ Tb flour
- 3 cups milk, warmed
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup bread crumbs
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 Tb butter
- salt and pepper
In a medium-sized pot, cook the macaroni in salted water until al dente. Remove the macaroni with a slotted spoon and set aside. Use the same pot to cook the fish (only if it is raw), about 5 minutes. Strain the fish and let cool. When it has cooled, flake the fish into pieces.
Heat the oven to 200°C/ 400°F.
Make the béchamel sauce by melting 6Tb butter in a large saucepan. When the butter is foamy, whisk in the flour and cook for about 2 minutes. Slowly add the warmed milk and continue to whisk. Toss in the leek and mix thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Continue to cook the sauce over medium heat until it has thickened, another couple of minutes. Set aside.
Melt 2 Tb butter in a pan and add the minced garlic. Cook for 1 minute and add the breadcrumbs. Mix everything together and cook for 1 minute longer. Set aside.
Separate the eggs. Stir the yolks into the béchamel. Whisk the whites and fold into the sauce as well. Next, add the macaroni and fish and gently mix everything together. Pour into a casserole dish and top with the garlicky breadcrumbs. Place in the oven and bake for 35 minutes.
It’s common to serve fiskegrateng with a grated carrot salad of choice.