Home for the Summer: Aug. 28Hey – it’s summer eating time again. Watermelon, burgers on the grill, corn on the cob. But even more important, it’s summer fish eating time.
By: Jan Kent, Lake County News Chronicle
Hey – it’s summer eating time again. Watermelon, burgers on the grill, corn on the cob. But even more important, it’s summer fish eating time. The best are brook trout. Les brings them home in his fishy, fern-lined canvas creel. He cleans them. (That was part of our prenuptial agreement.) I dip them in flour and give them a quick little fry-up in butter and olive oil. These days I can leave the heads on which makes getting the bones out easier. When the kids were little (“mom – it’s looking at me!”) we decapitated the fish before I cooked them.
Walleye, bass - delicious. We like northern, too, except for all the bones. Les has devised a method of cutting out filets that are virtually bone-free. The gulls really appreciate this, as there’s a bigger portion of each fish that gets tossed to them.
But we do miss one fish season. Right around Christmastime. I’m speaking of (you guessed it) lutefisk season. We’re back in the city when that rolls around, and it slips past us every time. It seems unobserved in our part of the country - no sales, specials, recipes, all-you-can-eat lutefisk buffets.
But there is a lutefisk season up here, isn’t there? Lots of celebratory events like fish-cleaning parties, cod-drying marathons, dunking-into-lye solution get-togethers. I realized I didn’t know nearly enough about this aspect of Minnesota life, so I did a little looking on the Web. Lutefisk is clearly not a last minute, throw together kind of meal. The first step seems to be a six- day soak of the dried cod in water, which must be changed daily. Next is the ol’ lye soak for two days. The lye soak is what gives the fish its “famous jelly-like consistency.” Then there’s another six-day bath, again with a daily change of water. Sounds like two weeks to me - and that’s before any cooking happens.
My Web source said that lutefisk can be steamed, baked, parboiled and, if you’re a lazy American, microwaved. It is usually served with white sauce.
Clean-up sounds like fun, too. Apparently lutefisk residue, left on plates or pans overnight, is virtually impossible to remove. It also, because of the lye, ruins anything made of silver.
Garrison Keilor, a true Minnesota son, has the following to say about lutefisk.
“Lutefisk is cod that has been dried in a lye solution. It looks like the desiccated cadavers of squirrels run over by trucks, but after it is soaked and reconstituted and the lye is washed out and it’s cooked, it looks more fish-related, though with lutefisk, the window of success is small. It can be tasty, but the statistics aren’t on your side. Every Advent we entered the purgatory of lutefisk, a repulsive gelatinous fishlike dish that tasted of soap and gave off an odor that would gag a goat. We did this in honor of our Norwegian ancestors, much as survivors of a famine might celebrate their deliverance by feasting on elm bark. I always felt the cold creeps as Advent approached, knowing that this dread delicacy would be put before me and I’d be told, ‘Just have a little.’”
At this point I can hear, from out of my past, my Norwegian mother whispering, “Have you tried it? Do you really know what it’s like if you’ve never tasted it? Just have a little.”
So this year we will try not to let lutefisk season slip past us again. We’ll add it to our long list of things we do at the holidays.