Searching for Skrei / 1

A journey to Norway, between Oslo and the Lofoten islands dedicated to the best fresh codfish

Gunnar Jensen’s new restaurant in Trømso, calle

Gunnar Jensen’s new restaurant in Trømso, called Mathallen, where you can taste an interpretation of Danish Smørrebrød, prepared with codfish placed on a slice of focaccia, with shallot and red onion purée

Norway, in the first months of the year, offers codfish enthusiasts one of its most sought after products, namely Skrei, which is caught from January till April in the most Northern islands, the mythical Lofoten islands, and must be eaten very fresh only. Besides, the quality of the raw materials, the firmness of the meat, the almost dazzling white of the filet, which is the noblest part of the Skrei but it is certainly not the only one since not a single part of this fish is wasted, can make one foresee the varied uses available for many of our own chefs.

Young Norwegian chef Gunnar Jensen

Young Norwegian chef Gunnar Jensen

Especially in these months, while the major Norwegian exporters have already made a shipment of Skrei for them to test, in view of its future arrival in the Italian market. And right in Norway, from north to south, instead, from Trømso to Oslo, there are many occasions to find it served even in versions that are perhaps less classic, prepared by a new generation of more cunning chefs who want to get noticed.

Right in Trømso, the industrial city that is closest to the Pole, young chef Gunnar Jensen settled a few months ago with his new restaurant. In fact he already worked locally, in another restaurant with a very long tradition, but then decided to fly off with his Mathallen, a pleasant place, with a bistro atmosphere, with an open view kitchen and, besides, a delicatessen shop with a rich assortment where one can buy Norwegian products and more.

These hands belong to Jostein Medhus, during his lesson on codfish at the Kulinarisk Akademi in Oslo

These hands belong to Jostein Medhus, during his lesson on codfish at the Kulinarisk Akademi in Oslo

Gunnar, who among other things also knows Italy having cooked in the past in a starred restaurant in the province of Bergamo, created his own, more Nordic version of bistronomie, as we know it. And enjoyed reinterpreting, for instance, Danish Smørrebrød, with codfish (in his version, it is placed on a good slice of focaccia with lots of shallot and red onion purée), or drawing from the products that are part of the everyday grocery shopping of local families.

Hence salmon meets cucumbers, soy and sour cream, and the meatballs made with Klippfisk, a semi-salted codfish, play with carrots and mayonnaise. And from time to time he plays with the youngest clients, who perhaps dive with pleasure into the tasting of a robust pork sandwich paired with local beers.

Fried codfish tongues

Fried codfish tongues

With a little luck, you can also find fried codfish tongues (the equivalent of Basque kokotxas), but for an explanation of the use of almost all the codfish in the kitchen, the right person is still Jostein Medhus. He’s a young chef, with the right amount of method and precision to make the meeting at the Kulinarisk Akademi in Oslo an educational experience that should not be missed, and goes from the opening of the codfish to its slow sectioning in various parts, up to its use in the pan.

From skin to liver, from eggs (there’s also a salty bottarga that matures for two months) to cheeks, from the tongue (fried for a couple of minutes) till the skin and the fishbone.

1. to be continued

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