Janssons frestelse

(maybe my favorite food... yes, of aaaaaall of the foods)

Well. It’s that time again. Christmas is coming.

I like Christmas I have to say. All in all, it’s mostly quite cosy and nice. There are things I LOVE about Christmas though. And maybe, just maybe, what I love the most is Jansson’s frestelse (sorry, all my family members, you’re a strong second).

According to folk lore it was invented by the opera singer Per Adolf “Pelle” Janzon, that used to treat his guests to beer, schnapps and this type of gratin (Wikipedia tells me the name might be from a movie with the same name. Let’s hope it’s not that boring).

It’s something so unusual as a completely Swedish dish (I don’t even think it’s got an international name) that I really think should be the envy of the world. It doesn’t seem to be though. I think very few people outside of Sweden have ever heard of it. But hey, up here, it’s one of the seminal holiday dishes. It is essential. It is culture. I’m not sure if people really like it that much though..? But I love it and that’s enough for me.

It’s a bit complicated to explain what ‘Jansson’ actually tastes like to non Swedish people. You see, in Sweden there are anchovies, but they’re not like anchovies in the rest of the world, which are usually salty and preserved in oil (they’re called “sardeller” in Sweden). The Swedish version is very sweet, pickled with a whole bunch of spices like cinnamon, bay leaves, allspice, black pepper, sandel wood, clove, cardamom and some version of oregano. And it’s not made from the fish “anchovy” either, but rather sprat. Crazy stuff, right? But it is the bomb. And these “Swedish anchovies” basically make the dish; the savory, sweet, fatty, salty, wonderfully decadent Janssons frestelse. I love everything about them. Even the can they come in is awesome!

In my family we eat (and always have eaten) Jansson’s on 100% of the following holidays: Christmas, Easter, Midsummer, and on 0% of all the other days. Or, well… sometimes my dad can’t help himself and makes it off-season with like twice the anchovies.

It’s also really easy to make, as all the spicing is already in the stuff you put into the gratin. No added spices, easy peasy.

Let’s go!

Created with Sketch. 45 minute preparation, ca 45 minutes in the oven Created with Sketch. 8-12 servings

Ingredients

  • 1.6 kgpotatoes
  • 3 yellow onions
  • 400 gcream (40-ish %)
  • 3 cans of anchovies (125 g per can, including the liquid)
  • 100 gbutter
  • 25 groe
  • 20 gtomato puré
  • 50 gbread crumbs

Directions

  1. Put the oven on 225 C. Put a pan with 25 g of butter on medium heat. Chop half of the onions. When the butter starts to sizzle, lower the heat to medium/low and add the chopped onion. Fry until the onion starts to caramelize.
  2. While the onion is frying, peel the potatoes and cut them into sticks.
  3. Finely chop the rest of the onion. Open all three cans of anchovy and drain the pickle-juice into a bowl. Whatever you do: don’t throw it away! This is very important. It really packs a lot of flavor! Chop the anchovy from two of the cans. When the onion in the pan has caramelized somewhat, let it cool down off the stove in a bowl.


    I mean, just look at those… so pretty.
  4. Whisk the pickling juice, the roe and the tomato puré into the cream.

  5. Now you’re all set to put the pieces together. Layer potato sticks – raw and fried onion –  and pieces of anchovy, until you run out of ingredients.
  6. When you’re done with the layering, pour the cream/anchovy pickling juice/tomato puré/roe- mix on top.
  7. Now sprinkle the bread crumbs evenly over the surface.
  8. Distribute the remaining can of anchovy fillets on top of the layer of bread crumbs.
  9. And finally: slice the remaining butter (or better yet, use a cheese grater) and layer it on top of the anchovy fillets. 
  10. Into the oven it goes! It needs about 45 minutes but this is very dependent on the oven, the depth of the oven dish and to some extent the ingredients (like the type of potato). You’ll know it’s done when it’s golden brown, the cream is wonderfully gooey and the potatoes are soft. Check in now and then to time it perfectly. Let it rest out of the oven for at least 30 minutes before eating. As with many recipes, this is probably the most important and hardest part. But the gratin really has to set to let the ingredients meld. It’s also way tastier at something like 60 C than piping hot.

This is normally had at Christmas with tons of things as a part of the Christmas dinner behemoth. But it’s great with just some good ol’ meatballs and an egg.

Happy holidays!

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