A Swedish cuisine theme was one of the early International cooking nights (I-Night) with our friends. Matt and I were hosting. I had to plan and execute the main course while Matt took sole responsibility for finding an appropriate regional wine.
One of the few I-Night rules was to cook something you had not cooked before. In those early years, this was an exciting endeavor. Gravlax, a salmon dish with a mustard dill sauce, fit the theme and criterion.
I prepped the salmon the night before the dinner party by layering sugar and fresh dill between two fillets. Just thirty minutes before serving, I brushed a mixture of Dijon mustard, garlic cloves, olive oil, honey, and fresh dill on the fillets then baked the fish at 400 degrees until the fish flaked and the edges caramelized—about 15-20 minutes.
The dinner was absolutely delicious. The couples who prepared appetizers and soup out did their culinary skills and dessert was scrumpish. I made a few regional side dishes that featured root vegetables, but the gravlax was the star of the night. It was so moist, flaky and just-right sweet. Swedish Night was one of our favorite meals.
Wine, however, one was another matter. Matt could not find a Swedish or Scandinavian bottle of wine. Vodkas and beer were plentiful, but, as we had learned, the far north does not grow a sustainable grape suitable for wine. Matt did bring home a bottle of akvavit. He said that the liquor store proprietor claimed this was as close to wine as the region could produce. He went on to explain that it was a Swedish traditional to skål blessings then down shot of akvavit—kind of like saying grace. Apparently, our friends who brought the soup and dessert got a similar lesson in Swedish skål-ing. They, too, brought akvavit. Akvavit tasted much like homemade moonshine with a caraway chaser—not a favorite. As the dinner progressed, it did not matter. We ate and skål-ed all night.
I still cook gravlax. It is frequently in my home dinner rotation. Salmon is plentiful and economical, as is dill. However, akvavit has not returned. A crisp Sauvignon Blanc or a light Pinot Grigio complements the gravlax so much better.
Welcome to my Blogging A-Z April 2018 Challenge. My theme is Food Stories Remembered because there is always a story when food is involved. I consider myself a good home cook with a great appetite for hearty food. I have witnessed the creation of favorite recipes in friends’ kitchens and have learned from the best—my mother, grandmother, and mother-in-law. Recipes may be included. I am remaining uncommitted on this because when I cook, I seldom measure. If you try any of my recipes, you are cooking at your own risk. Grab a glass of wine. Hope you’re hungry!
Antoinette Truglio Martin is the author of Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer. The memoir is a wimpy patient’s journey through her first year of breast cancer treatment.