Citizens, we start to wind down the week of pickles with this famous dish, not typically associated with pickles!
This delicious casserole is a blend of julienned potatoes, thinly sliced onions and authentically made not with salted anchovies as you may have tried, but Swedish sweet pickled anchovy fillets, all bathed in cream and topped with breadcrumbs.
As the dish bakes, the flavors of the anchovies and their pickling spices get succulently tempered by the cream, so the dish may even appeal to those who don’t profess to like anchovies.
The recipe is named after Erik Jansson, the 19th century Swedish religious zealot and self-appointed prophet who took his disciples to America and founded a colony called Bishop Hill in Illinois.
Although adamantly opposed to the pleasures of the flesh and insisting his followers deny all earthly pleasures, one day Janson found himself so sorely tempted by this crusty dish cooling on a window shelf that he threw out his principles to devour it — in secret, of course. As the tale goes, he was caught in the act by a disillusioned follower and the colony soon fell apart after they heard of his hypocrisy.
Most Swedish families serve Jansson’s temptation as part of their Christmas Day dinner. It also typically appears on a smorgasbord, which also would likely offer shrimp and pickled herring, gravlax (cured salmon), Swedish meatballs, cooked cabbage, and hard-boiled egg halves topped with caviar, as well as crisp and soft breads and various salads.
Citizens – while some of you have probably tried this recipe made with salted anchovies, and it is delicious made with them, I hope you will try this made the true way with pickled anchovies! 🙂
I’ve also added a few fresh herbs to my version of the recipe, but feel free to omit them if you prefer the classic dish!
Battle on – The Generalissimo
2 ¼ pounds russet (Idaho) potatoes
1 tablespoon salt
2 onions, peeled and thinly sliced
5 tablespoons butter, divided
2 (4.1-ounce) tins (or to taste) Swedish sweet pickled anchovy fillets, not drained* – buy them from here. The real Swedish pickled anchovy is also sometimes found in Ikea stores
(TFD note – you can also use regular anchovy fillets, preferably from a glass jar. The taste is different, but still delicious. The best anchovies – by far – are the Ortiz brand, sold at Whole Foods and also available on Amazon.
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 ¼ cups heavy cream
About 3 tablespoons fine dry breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons minced curly parsley (optional)
1 tablespoon minced thyme (optional)
1 tablespoon minced tarragon (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Peel potatoes and cut them into 2-inch-by- ¼-inch julienne strips. Place in a large bowl of water along with the salt. In a large skillet, saute onions and herbs (if using) in two tablespoons butter until soft but not brown, six to eight minutes over medium-high heat. Grease bottom and sides of a 13-inch-by-9-inch glass baking dish with one tablespoon butter.
Drain potatoes very well. Spread one third of the potatoes in the baking dish, and layer over top half the anchovies (reserve juices) and half the onions; season with pepper. Add remaining potatoes, anchovies and onions; pour cream and reserved anchovy juice over all, and season with more pepper. Cut remaining two tablespoons butter into bits and dot dish with butter.
Sprinkle breadcrumbs on top. Bake uncovered until potatoes are tender and top is well browned, about one hour; near the end of cooking time, cover dish with aluminum foil if top is starting to over-brown. Serve warm.