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November 15, 2006 | 5 Comments

Dear Mr. Keillor,
I have a little problem, which you might be able to help me with. My family likes to try new and unusual recipes. The prairie home companion sponsors have served us well in new ideas, catsup on lentils and rhubarb pie being good examples. Now, after years of experimentation, we have finally worked up the nerve to experiment with Lutefisk. I've tried internet services and other cooking references, but have been stumped in finding either a recipe for this, or volunteer groups to aid in recovery after eating it.

Do you have either a good recipe for this, or a place where I could obtain some?

Your help is greatly appreciated,

Mike S.

(Response from Mrs. Sundberg, lutefisk expert)

Well, you know, Michael, everyone has his or her own recipe for lutefisk, and it's tough to say which is best. Since this is your first go-round, I suggest this recipe which is simple and foolproof and turns out a lovely batch. In Minnesota, we allow at least a pound of lutefisk per person. Try Olsen's Lutefisk Company in Minneapolis. They've been around since 1910 and you can get a 50 lb container if you want to go all out. Their phone number is (612) 287-0838, and they have a Lutefisk Hotline in case you reach crisis mode: 1-800-882-0212.

Purchase the lutefisk a day or two before you want to serve it. Take it out of the wrapping, put it in a large bowl, and cover it with ice water. Change this water two to three times and keep it in the fridge (if your family will let you). This will firm it up. To cook it, place the lutefisk in an enamel or glass pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and dot with butter. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 for 30 minutes for the first pound of fish and 10 minutes for each additional pound. When it's cloudy (white) or flaky, it's done. If it's clear, cook it longer. Serve with melted butter if you're Norwegian, and if you're Swedish try white sauce with a bit of allspice, or mustard sauce. Serve up some potatoes (riced goes best), very small cooked frozen peas, and lefse, buttered and sugared and rolled up, and you've got yourself a feast.

Should you have leftovers, try a Norwegian Lutefisk Taco. Cover a piece of lefse with a thin layer of mashed potatoes, sprinkle with flaked lutefisk, and pour melted butter over the top. Salt and pepper it, and roll it on up. Enjoy!

As for recovery, I can't help you there. Stock up on Tums and plan to order out for pizza on Day Two. A few pine-scented candles can't hurt, either.

-Mrs. Sundberg


In our family, the Norwegian Lutefisk Taco has always been called a "beta," and there's no question of a thin layer of anything. Load your lefse up with all the fish and potatoes (and, of course, butter!) it can hold, and enjoy yourself.

I am so happy Mrs. Sundberg is back! She has been missed. This is a woman you would love to call a friend. Her recipes aren't half bad either!

from a North Carolina reader and listener.

Just what is lutefisk anyway?

My husband grew up in Scandia, Kansas--the only person in town whose name did not end in -son. Here is his recipe for lutefisk: soak the lutefisk. heat oven. place lutefish on a board. bake. take out of oven, throw away the lutefisk and eat the board.

I, on the other hand, grew up in Manhattan and a Dufva, which IS a very old Swedish name. Several weeks before the Christmas season, my immigrant grandmother would walk down to Anderson's neighborhood grocery and get a slab of something white and stiff out of the wooden cask imported from Sweden. She would soak it for a few weeks. On Christmas Eve, she would arrive with her lutefisk. My mother (NOT a Swede) would say, "You don't want any of that lutefisk (implying that lutefisk was an inedible dish). We'll have hamburgers." Consequently, I adopted the Christmas Eve hamburger, but never developed that most Swedish of all traits, the ability to not only appreciate but actually eat lutefisk. When I was a young wife, confident of my culinary skills, and my father was coming to Colorado for Christmas, I discovered some frozen lutefisk in the supermarket. I followed the directions on the package, and had a steaming chafing dish of Swedish lutefisk ready for Dad. He took one bite and said, "that's not it." It was my one and only direct contact with this part of my heritage. And I never did find a use for the leftovers.

My family did, however, accept enthusiastically my aunt's (on my mother's side) cranberry sorbet.

Diane Dufva Quantic

I don't know a whole lot about lutefisk. However, we do have a show called Lutefisk Champ & Other Frozen Holiday Tales on now through December 31 at History Theatre in Downtown Saint Paul (30 E Tenth Street, Saint Paul, MN 55101). I learned a whole lot about Lutefisk after I saw the show! Come one come all to Lutefisk Champ @ History Theatre this holiday season! (

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