A Decadent Scandinavian Holiday Casserole

Maurice's Kristen Murray shares the recipe for her great-grandmother’s sillgratin.

By Benjamin Tepler November 20, 2015 Published in the December 2015 issue of Portland Monthly

1215 maurice sillgratin nudoyr

Decorating with brightly painted Dala horses is a centuries-old tradition across Sweden—they’re an unofficial national mascot. Our party’s herd belongs to local Scandinavian collector Ross Fogelquist, who counts hand-carved horses crafted in his grandparents’ village in Dalarna, Sweden, among his treasures (look for Dala horses at Scandia Imports and Ikea). 

Maurice Sillgratin

(Serves 8)

Variations on this classic casserole (delightfully known as “Jansson’s Temptation” in Sweden) make their way onto every julbord in Scandinavia. Maurice’s Kristen Murray, our local advocate of the traditional Swedish coffee break, fika, revitalizes her Norwegian great-grandmother’s recipe using salt cod instead of oily sprats for a decadent side dish.

  • 1 lb salt cod (available at Pastaworks)
  • 2 lb of parboiled yellow potatoes, sliced ⅛-inch thick
  • 1 leek, green top removed, sliced thin
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup crème fraîche
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp white pepper
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • ¼ tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 day-old baguette, crusted removed, cut into ½ -inch cubes

SOAK Submerge salt cod in water for 24 hours, refrigerated, changing the water once to help remove the salt. Strain fish from water, slice ¼ inch thick, and reserve.

ASSEMBLE Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a ceramic or other ovenproof dish and layer in fish, potato, and leek. Whisk cream, crème fraîche, coriander, salt, and pepper together, and pour over layered dish.

BAKE Melt butter, add nutmeg, and pour over bread cubes, using your hands to mix well. Top salt cod gratin with buttered bread cubes and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until potatoes are cooked through and the gratin is golden brown.

Light Bright

What makes the holidays in Scandinavia so magical? It’s all about the candles, according to Broder Soder’s Martin Hulth, who grew up outside Stockholm in Södertälje, Sweden: “All the city covered in snow and there’s lights and candles in every window—you’re enveloped in this warm, white glow everywhere you go.” The holiday-obsessed expat loves julbords so much, he threw the festive potlucks for up to 150 people as a part of a heritage group in Chicago; after moving to PDX in 2008, he launched smaller annual parties at Broder. Now, with the debut of Nordia House, he’s dreaming up even bigger fêtes. “I aim to attract both natives and nonnatives by bridging them through events that honor the past and look forward,” he says.

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