It was a lazy Sunday afternoon, I was looking in vain for the Dodgers game on cable, and stumbled across “New Scandinavian Cooking” with Andreas Viestad.
It’s one of my favorite PBS cooking shows, and it was just beginning.
“Dad!” 5-year-old Imogen said as we wandered into the bedroom, “Is that a cooking show!??”
Watching weekend cooking shows on PBS is a favorite father/daughter activity of ours. She climbed up and settled into the crook of my arm on the bed, and we got to it.
It only took 25 minutes — the amount needed to watch the episode — before we fell asleep, the monotone voice of Steven Raichlen charring an eggplant on the grill fading in and out as we dozed.
While we were still awake, we watched Andreas travel across Norway on a train, from Bergen to Oslo. In the town of Voss, he disembarks to cook an herb-stuffed lamb roll up trackside; he catches a trout in a glacial stream and throws it into a wooden barrel to smoke, old-school Norwegian style.
The part that most caught my attention, however, was a little something he busted out right on the train — a shrimp sandwich. Working with beautiful fjord shrimp — 14 to a sandwich was the traditional number, he counseled — set atop a golden cloud of freshly churned mayonnaise on grainy bread with lacy herbs, Andreas built up a stunning open-faced beauty.
I needed to make myself one.
The Baja shrimp I scored not from an idyllic mountain fjord but from the store were of a heartier south-of-the-border sort, so I doubted I would fit 14 on my sandwich. I opted for four instead. The grainy bread I made myself, adjusting in a more savory direction a fairly sweet Icelandic recipe I’d made once before. A fresh egg from the coop whipped up into a lovely mayo. And I was in business. Andreas had used chervil in his sandwich, which would’ve been tasty. But I didn’t have any, my garden’s herb population represented largely by the Mediterranean trio of oregano, rosemary and thyme. So I settled for some dill I picked up at the Mexican market.
I sat by the window looking out over our drought-parched, very un-fjordlike canyon eating my Scandinavian sandwich and trying to stir up my one-quarter Swedish genes. The view may not have possessed the authenticity that Andreas was experiencing speeding across the frozen Norwegian tundra on his train. But it was beautiful nonetheless, and the sandwich was just as delicious, I suppose, as it would’ve been anywhere on earth.
* * *
Scandinavian shrimp sandwich
serves 4 as a light lunch or dinner appetizer
16 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tbsp. butter
4 slices dense grainy Scandinavian or Eastern European bread
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
8 small lettuce leaves
1/4 cup dill fronds
flaky sea salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
Carefully flatten the shrimp out by pressing them firmly beneath the flat part of a chef’s knife or cleaver.
Melt butter in a pan over medium-high. Cook shrimp, tossing, until firm and pink, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Make mayonnaise: Mix together egg yolk and lemon juice. Introduce oil in a thin stream, whisking constantly to emulsify.
Compose sandwiches: Spread some mayo on each of the four grainy pieces of bread. Place lettuce leaves and then shrimp on top. Top with sprigs of fresh dill, and sprinkle with flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.