One of the things that being a "Son of Norway" on one side of the family gives you is an appreciation for a number of things. One is Christmas traditions and traditional sweets . One is late night suppers with warming soups and open faced sandwiches. And one is sardines and other smoked fish and fish products. I mean I could throw Aquavit in there too but really my love for beer is more cultivated than my love for the liquor of the Motherland.
Norway is a little known country in the US. unless you are in certain parts of the Midwest. It's foods and it's traditions are blurred together with the more well known and vocal neighbor Sweden ( I mean who can compete with Abba and Ikea as icons). Even it's meatballs aren't as well known as it's neighbor's although different and very tasty. ( More on that in another blog). But Norway had a big impact on this nation and it's people contributed mightily to many regions of the US. not just the Midwest. For example, did you know that after the turn of the century and before WWII Mobile Alabama had a large Norwegian population that was involved in the ship building industry there. Or did you know that in the early part of the last century there were more Norwegians in Brooklyn than Germans, or actually in Norway itself for that matter. Gone are there communities for the most part although to this day in a part of brooklyn there is a small smattering of Norwegian shops, churches and stores. But only the very old remember any real community or sense of tradition being there. That's the odd thing about transitions in the US. Whole groups of peoples have come and gone from areas and left nary a trace.
My mother's family on her father's side all came over on the boat. She is on that side of the family the first generation American. Not so on her Mother's side. But because of this European connection I have relatives who grew into being Americans. They all learned English as a badge of honor, not wanting to be separated from the people that they were living amongst. Immigrants then learned english. In fact it was somewhat of a duty. It wasn't easy, lets face it English is actually a complex tongue compared to many. So many ways to say the same thing. My Great Grandfather used to say in frustration " I just learned how to say JELLY, when they changed the word to "Y"am! " The J being pronounced like a Y in Norwegian made this a riot! Ah, those simple times!
Being half Norwegian my Mother learned all about the traditions of the Norse peoples. From the Christmas traditions to the stories of the homeland her relatives shared things, and of course they shared the foods. Most of what came down to my brother and myself were Christmas sweets and cakes, and an appreciation for certain spices in savory dishes like Nutmeg and Allspice. We also got a fair dose of smoked seafood and fish. And a love for dark brown and rye breads with certain meals. All in all not a bad dose of culinary knowledge.
Today's recipe is something that I picked up over my time working in the NYC restaurant and catering scene. It is a dish which embodies a few elements which I have found fit into the flavor palate that I grew up with at home with Norway in the background of the cooking that the women of the house were doing. Which may explain why I took to it! It also is an easy dish that looks and tastes so elegant that it's sure to be a crowd pleaser. And unless people have an aversion to fish in general it's also a great way to make a tartare that it not really raw. Don't get me wrong I love a good steak tartare or a fresh tuna tartare. But there are those folks you might have over who have a problem with eating raw meat or seafood. This is a bridge between the two worlds and boy is it a tasty one. So grab your ring mold and your mandoline and lets get cooking!
Smoked Salmon Tartare with Cucumbers and Pickled Fennel (serves 4 as an appetizer)
Special equipment you will need:
A 2 inch metal or plastic restaurant mold
A mandoline ( slicer, you can use a knife and do this by hand but it's so much easier to cut paper thin slices on a mandoline)
10oz smoked Salmon ( I like to use Gravlaks or Pastrami smoked salmon when available it has such great flavor)
2 tablespoons capers
3 tablespoons finely diced red onion
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh dill chopped plus more for garnish
1 tablespoon dijon
dash of worcestershire sauce
dash of tabasco
pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 tablespoon lemon zest
2 persian cucumbers sliced thin on a mandoline into rounds
1 small head of fennel sliced paper thin on a mandoline
2 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons both mustard seeds and dried coriander seeds whole
Place the fennel in a bowl pour the vinegar over it to cover, then all the next 3 ingredients. stir well. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge overnight
Next finely chop the salmon into fine dice
Mix all the rest of the ingredients together gently
except the cucumbers
Cover and let sit in the fridge for an hour
When ready to serve
Place ring mold in the middle of the plate and fill with the tartare
place a ring of overlapping cucumbers around the ring. Pour a little lemon juice on the cucumbers.
Take the fennel out of the fridge and taking a few strands top the tartare with a little nest of the fennel, make it artistic and twisted. Not too much just to give it some drama. Then garnish with the dill frons. Serve with white toast soldiers. Which are white bread toasted crusts cut off and then cut into toast "fingers".
And there you have it a very classy appetizer that it also really easy to prepare. Enjoy Ya'll!