Friday, October 15, 2010

T.G. I. F. gratin

Thank God It's Friday. It has been a long, busy week at work and I really am thankful for the week end stretching in front of me: I am looking forward to little feet pattering into our room in the morning, small warm bodies trampling piling on top of us, breakfast together and two whole days to spend with my family.

My Friday recipe is fish-based.

Wait, all this talk of being thankful to God and fish on, we are not strict Catholics, we are not churchgoers at all really. Our family is a mix of religions and cultures, not as common here as it is in other places. My family tree includes German protestants, Polish Catholics and New York Jews (of German descent). My husband's family is Sicilian Catholic and I too was brought up in Catholic Italy. So there is a reason why my parents and my husband&I decided to let our children choose their creed growing up. We do teach our children about God and values that are important to us but we try to do it with a broader scope, encompassing things we agree with in many religions. We want our children to grow up respecting and knowing more about other possibilities. I know many may disagree strongly and I realize broaching the subject of religion on  a food blog is perhaps inappropriate. I apologize if I am offending anyone in any way. The reason I am writing about this is because I believe strongly that food and the pleasure of sitting at a table with family and friends is something all cultures and thus all religions share and as a consequence I firmly believe that eating together and feeling the same enjoyment really is a way for people of different beliefs to grow closer and understand each other better. Isn't it true that we are what we eat, in all senses, and that teaching others the recipes we grew up eating is a way of teaching them to understand where we come from, our history and our heritage?
So I am not posting about fish because it is Friday, although it happens to be just the right day for many. I just happened to find fresh herring at the supermarket and bought it on a whim, only to realize I had never made herring before. It was often present at the table when I was growing up, in sour cream at my Nana's in New York, pickled with vinegar and sugar the German way or on the Christmas Smorgasbord (Julbord) in the years my mother lived in Sweden.

The recipe was funnily enough inspired by a Swedish Christmas dish that does not have herring in it called Janssons Frestelse (literally Jansson's Temptation), and it is a twist on a Dauphinoise, or basically a cream-based potato gratin with layered potatoes, onions and herring (Jansson's Tempation is made with different, smaller fish of the same family, pickled sprats).

Whether you are Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, Buddhist or Hindu; whether you are South American,  French, Chinese, Russian  or Kenyan; whether you are a Texan meat lover or an Australian fish-eating vegetarian, this dish will warm your heart and soul.

approx. 1 large potato
8/10 herring filets (approx. 1 kg)
1 large golden onion
200ml cream (and a little milk if needed)

Clean the herring, discarding the skin and bones and cutting the filets into approx. 2cm strips. Thinly slice the potato (I kept the skin on) and onion. I used my favorite mandoline to do this. Grease an oven dish with butter and layer the potatoes, fish and onions in this order, sprinkling the last of the three layers with salt and pepper and a few small chunks of butter. Add another layer, proceeding the same way. Pour in the cream and if it is not enough to cover the layers, add in some milk (or more cream if you prefer). Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and pop into a pre-heated oven at 200°C for 45 minutes to an hour.


  1. Your post brings back memories of many spaghetti with oil and garlic meals and other meatless dishes, served on a Friday night as I was growing up. Thanks for sharing

  2. I love learning about different gratin dishes! And I definitely think your approach at religion with your kids is an excellent way to do so! Forcing something on a child will just end in resentment, but allowing them to choose and enlighten them about other cultures and religions is definitely the route to go!

  3. I think food, religion, and culture, are all linked, and there's nothing wrong with that. Its so cool that we can learn about someone else's background by eating their food.
    THis looks like a very hearty and delicious meal.
    I hope you have a wonderful weekend ahead.
    *kisses* HH

  4. I talk about my faith all the time on my no offense from me! ;)

    Food is definitely tied into culture and religion...I mean, food IS life. We ARE made and grown from the food we eat. And same with religion, which IS life, too. No wonder the two interlink so much.

  5. Anna, Peggy, HH and Sophia - I agree, whatever you believe in, it is important to share and to be open to what others have to offer. Be it their beliefs or their food. Sitting around a table with people of races, religions and backgrounds enjoying the same pleasures can help make a tiny difference. But you have to start somewhere, right?


Leave a suggestion, opinion or your own experience. I love hearing from you.