Citizens – it is with no small amount of happiness I can report to TFD Nation that I am once more officially in My beloved Nordic latitudes, after a COVID-related multi-year absence from this Northern paradise!
I am staying at an exceptional hotel on the Baltic Sea for the next few days before returning home for the next stop on My journeys! This hotel is renowned for its restaurant, where I had the pleasure of enjoying the famed Swedish dish of toast Skagen for lunch today. As such, My recipe for this Swedish delicacy is the subject of today’s gustatory musing by the Viscount of Viking Victuals – YOUR TFD!
Citizens, I count myself very lucky indeed to have returned to My beloved Nordic region, especially after waking up on the very day the Finnish men’s hockey team took the gold medal in the Olympics from the Russians! I may only be visiting briefly – but at least for the next few days, I am in My spiritual homeland and feeling My soul reborn as the Ice Phoenix once again! 😀
Toast Skagen is an acclaimed Swedish starter consisting of pieces of butter-toasted bread and a prawn salad called skagenröra, typically made with mayonnaise, sour cream and dill, sometimes dijon mustard, and garnished with fish roe. The name of the dish stems from Skagen in Denmark, but the dish is not very well known there and is mainly popular in Sweden, where it was created by the Stockholm-based restaurateur and chef Tore Wretman in the 1950s.
A detailed history is more eruditely noted on the exceptional website swedishspoon.com, as amply demonstrated in this excerpted text from their original article:
The late chef, restaurateur, and cookbook writer Tore Wretman has had an enormous influence on the modern Swedish kitchen.
He was also a big fan of sailing, especially on his mahogany boat Salta Marina. And it is on that boat that this classic Swedish appetizer is born, at least according to journalist Staffan Heimerson, who got the origin story from Wretman’s wife Ewa:
Wretman and his crew participated in a competition in Skagen in the northernest part of Denmark in 1956. The wind disappeared, and with it, the chances of winning. The crew was disappointed. Wretman decided to cheer them up and checked what the galley had to offer: egg, oil, shrimps, some fish roe, and bread.
Wretman turned the egg and oil into mayonnaise, mixed it with the prawns, toasted the bread, and shaped the fish roe into small eggs.
As one of the crew members asked Wretman for the dish’s name, Wretman looked out over the glittering waters. He exclaimed:
“Oh, dear me — this is a typical Toast Skagen!”
It has changed a bit since Wretman first created it, though. According to Heimerson, Wretman’s original version included dill and lemon, but according to Riche and a couple of other sources, both the dill and the lemon juice was an addition from Wretman’s cold-buffet manageress Karin Chädström. I’d say the dill and lemon are considered standard nowadays.
Nilsson approves of the horseradish, though. Chef and restaurateur Erik Lallerstedt pioneered horseradish in the Skagen mix. The reason? According to Lallerstedt: “greed”. When he had a restaurant in Östermalmshallen, he added more mayonnaise to the mix. Otherwise, the expensive shrimps made it difficult to make a profit. To balance the extra fat, he added horseradish.
Then there are more unusual additions. The rebel Per Moberg adds both cognac and soured cream to his.
For my version, I have (unsurprisingly) gone full-on deluxe gourmet to make what I consider to be the quintessential version of the dish – and I have combined aspects of most of the different versions listed above into My own Ultima Thule recipe!
For the shrimps, you should try and use small, fresh shrimp and hand-peel them – the Swedes insist on this step despite the fact that it is a royal pain-in-the-ass to do so – they’re right, it dramatically improves the texture of the shrimp flesh! I take the highly-advanced route of poaching the shrimp in a complex Scandinavian-style court-bouillon as opposed to just water – EVERY version of this dish should adopt a similar approach, IMHO!
The roe used to garnish the toast Skagen is critical to the final dish – and the most deluxe version uses roe from Kalix for the ultimate taste sensation!
Löjrom (Bleak Roe or Kalix Caviar) is a Swedish delicacy that is often found on menus in Sweden year round… but during the end of September and beginning of October is when you can get löjrom at its freshest! It is the roe from the bleak/vendace that are harvested during their spawning season (starting middle of September and 5 weeks on) in northern Sweden along the shores of the Gulf of Bothnia.
It is golden orange in color and has a mild and elegant flavor. The most common way löjrom is served is with crème fraîche, diced red onion & chives, a slice of lemon, a dill sprig and either toasted bread or blini. You will also often find löjrom as a garnish (on Toast Skagen, for example) or in sauces.
As noted on junkofiskarna.se:
10 years ago, Junköfiskarna Kalix Löjrom was awarded Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) by the EU. This means the product is produced, processed and prepared within a particular geographical area with one for the area typical method. Just like Parmesan or Champagne. The fish comes from a healthy population, and the fishing is carried out in a way that is gentle toward the marine environment.
The vendace is the world´s smallest salmon. Aside from plankton and crustacean, vendace live on river minerals – which deliver the unique taste of Kalix Löjrom. The big rivers really bring a part of the northern inland all the way out to sea and create one of the world’s least salty freshwater ocean with a salt level of only 0,3%.
The constant refill from the rivers make the entire ocean renew itself every third year, leading to a clean, clear water with perfect conditions for the vendace. The females breed at the end of October and beginning of November, as they lay their roe near river mouths with access to fresh water. Some travel upstream, but always return to the same area year after year. The females prefer the sand and gravel of the Swedish part of the Baltic sea, before the Finnish side which is more muddy.
The egg hatch in spring when water temperatures reach 12-13 centigrades. By then, the rivers’ spring flood has picked up and the fry feed off the nourishment that it brings. The marine environment of the northern Baltic sea is is very special and only contains some 35 species of sea floor plants.
It is a fragile fauna, shaped to grow fast during the short season when the ocean is ice-free. The vendace fishing begins on September 20 every year, and during the five weeks of fishing the labor is equally intense on land, with processing the fish, and preparing the roe. The females are squeezed manually, but the males are also great food fish and can be packaged whole.
A female vendace weighs around 25 grams, and its roe content is rarely more than five grams. After the squeezing, the roe is gently rinsed and cleaned before it is dried, salted and packaged by hand. The only additive in Kalix Löjrom is 4% salt.
Unfortunately, löjrom is nearly impossible to find outside of the Nordic region, but there is an exceptional substitute found in American waters – whitefish roe! It lacks the transcendent subtlety of löjrom, but it is very close and easily purchased from this fine purveyor.
My beloved members of TFD Nation – I needed this visit to the Northern latitudes more than I can possibly explain and I am feeling My depression already melting away. KNOW THAT TFD IS BACK AND READY TO RUMBLE!!! 😀
Battle on – the GeneralissimoPrint
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