Fjord Shrimp with Andreas

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.

Andreas Viestad fixing to smoke some trout in the mountains of Norway

Andreas Viestad fixing to smoke some trout in the mountains of Norway

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.

My four-shrimp Scandinavian sandwich

My four-shrimp Scandinavian sandwich

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.

Crispy Shrimp Risotto Fake Out

I’m a big believer in the ol’ saying, “If life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.” I often spring it on my children when something hasn’t gone the way they were hoping, and they roll their eyes at me.

One lemon that life keeps giving me over and over again is burnt rice. About one out of every three times I make sushi rice, I space out and forget to turn it off and it burns.

Crispy shrimp risotto fake out

Crispy shrimp risotto fake out

If it isn’t too burned, I’m able to salvage most of the rice and it has a nice woodsy nutty smoked taste that works well with sushi. Also if it’s not too burned, the “burnt” part comes off with a wrist twist of the spatula in crusty golden brown strips. If you put it in a 200 degree oven for 40 or so minutes, it dries out and becomes the hard stuff the Chinese fry to drop into sizzling rice. More

Why Iceland?

My 11-year-old son Flynn is obsessed with Iceland.

“I think I want to learn to speak Icelandic,” he declared to us at some point.

He now has two different Icelandic apps on his iPhone and paces around the house working on his pronunciation.

“Kveðja!” he says cheerfully by way of an Icelandic goodbye to our 5-year-old daughter Imogen as she heads off to summer camp.

Svið (singed sheep's head)

Svið (singed sheep’s head)

Why Iceland? I take some responsibility, having introduced him to the Icelandic band, Sigur Rós, and taken him to one of their very dramatic concerts.

I’ve always been a bit intrigued by Iceland myself. I’m Irish, I like cold and dramatic northern landscapes and broody people who drink a bit too much and write mournful poetry and music. More

O’Connor’s Saag Paneer

When I re-read the subject line of my post — “O’Connor’s Saag Paneer — it reminded me of the title of some Merchant-Ivory feel-good comedy film, where an Indian family moves in next door to the Irish pub, and heartfelt cross-cultural mayhem ensues.

It wasn’t like that, though.

The big cheese

The big cheese

Our friends, the O’Connors, had invited us to dinner. I was sitting out on the deck mingling with some other guests when I saw Sean waving at me from the kitchen.

“I want to show you something,” he said. More

The Subversion of Quinoa

The occasion was the Commitment Dinner for my daughter, Imogen’s kindergarten class. Our friends, Casey and Simone were hosting at their home.

The purpose of the commitment dinner is for the class parents to get together, sign up to volunteer for certain responsibilities in the class, hear the pitch for money from our version of a PTA parent, and then drink profusely and eat potluck.

My quinoa salad

My quinoa salad

As you might guess, it is the “eating potluck” part of the equation that, every year around this time, sows fear in my soul. And, this being Topanga Canyon, there is one word in particular I expect to see a lot of in the emails leading up to the event: quinoa. More

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