Bacalao fish stew brings a taste of Norway home


By: Rachel Shenk

Rachel Shenk

The fog has lifted, and the clouds have moved away. It is a beautiful sunny morning on the fjord. The deep colored sky reflects on the water, and everything comes up in shades of blue. Today we are walking to the harbor to catch a ferry to the island out on the fjord. Our path winds along old wooden warehouses and a variety of wooden boats, and runs right into the quay where the ferry will come to pick us up. We approach the cobblestone square with a view onto the water and join a few others on the stone seating to watch the activity. Right next to the square, the fish market sells a variety of fresh, dried and smoked fish, along with shrimp. With open air tables, it looks like an inviting spot to have lunch. A fishing boat docked alongside offers fresh fish also.

But here is our boat. We walk on and find a place to sit. With a low hum, we are on our way and very quickly out on the open water. The sun sparkles on the sea, and the wind is fresh on our faces. In a few short minutes, we look back on the city and see it spread out and surrounded by pine forests. Up ahead is the island where the castle was built, a perfect spot for spying invaders during war time. Most recently, during World War II, the Nazis used it. But now, it is a green oasis where Trondheimers go for a picnic or to sun on the beach. We walk the perimeter of the island and take in the 360 degree views, then we take off our socks, roll up our pants and dip our toes into the chilly fjord. But with the sun reflecting off the water, it’s all good.

On our return to the city, we order a big bowl of shrimp and Bacalao, a typical Norwegian fish stew, and sit down to eat at the tables set up along the water. More warm sun, more deep blue sky, more sparkling water. Norway might be the most beautiful country in the world. We soak it all in, knowing we will keep the memories of it.

Now that we are back home, we make our own version of Bacalao, and with each bite, we see again those scenes we left behind just a few weeks ago.

Here is the recipe, if you want to have a taste of Norway.


Bacalao (Norwegian Fish Stew)

  • 1 lb. fresh cod, wild caught, cut into medium pieces
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 red pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeño, with half the seeds, minced
  • 1/4 t. red chile pepper
  • 1 t. paprika
  • 1/2 t. oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 c. green olives, chopped
  • 1/4 c. Sherry
  • 3 tomatoes, diced
  • 6 small new potatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 2 T. tomato paste
  • A few pats of butter

Fry the onions and garlic in a little bit of olive oil until soft. Add the red pepper and jalapeño, then sauté for a couple of minutes. Then add the green olives, spices and wine. Simmer for several minutes. Remove to a bowl. In Dutch oven, layer a third of the potatoes, a third of the sautéed veggies, a third of the tomatoes and a third of the fish. Repeat. Pour any remaining liquid from the veggies over the top. Then pour 1/2 c. of water mixed with the tomato paste over the top and tuck the pats of butter around the edges. Cover and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until potatoes are tender and fish is flaky.

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