A delightful, simple and tasty potato gratin with a layers of flavor thanks to pickled herring, onions and Gruyere. A traditional Swedish casserole, this version is made fancy by serving in acorn squash rings and topped with cheese.
Janssons Temptation is a simple, yet plate-licking side dish you are going to want double helpings of. This dish is common in Smorgasbords, a Swedish buffet with a lot of hot and cold dishes. It is also served on special occasions as it is a favorite among Swedes and easy to make. The dish itself is not that old. It was invented by a writers mother. Gunnar Stigmark wrote about his mothers dish she served at a society function. When asked the name of the dish, she replied Janssons Frestelse, or Janssons Temptation, a popular movie from 1928.
It is likely there were many variations of this dish before it had a name associated with it as root vegetables and fish are common to Scandinavian cuisine. But it took the pen of a devoted son to give a name to this wonderful dish which spread into cookbooks and kitchens around the World.
My version of this Swedish classic potato casserole is inspired from the book Cooking the Scandinavian Way by Elna Adlerbert. It is a delightful, vintage cookbook from 1961 with scores of easy, Swedish recipes. I have also made Swedish Almond Cookies from this cookbook. I may devote the next 12 months trying every recipe in this book. If you can find a copy of this book, I highly recommend you add this to your cookbook repertoire.
A note about the fish. I used pickled herring in this recipe. Most Americans use anchovies because sprats are hard to find and there is some confusion about sprats as the Swedish word for sprats is ansjovis. Swedish sprats are a fish similar to anchovies but pickled in sugar and spices so your Janssons Temptation will have a slightly different but distinctive flavor to it. Pickled Herring is a great substitute for the sprats and I prefer this to anchovies. So try pickled herring first, which is usually easy to find in jars next to lox, smoked fish, in the butcher sections of most markets in the US. If by any chance you can find Swedish Ansjovis, by all means, please use that, in fact stock up!
I served this in a slice of acorn squash and covered with Gruyere. If you want the traditional recipe, just omit the squash and cheese and serve in a casserole dish shown at the end of this post. The rest of the cooking ingredients and methods are the same.
Why did I use squash? Because I have had this squash staring at me for two weeks on my counter and I thought it was about time to cook it. My husband seems to approve, he walked by while I was putting this in the oven and he said, “Oh we’re eating fancy tonight”. Um, I’ll take that as a win!
Cut the acorn squash into 1 inch slices and cut out the seeds.
Place the fish in the cream and smash with fork and stir to homogenize the sauce.
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.
Scoop up the potato mixture into the squash rings and top with cheese. Any left over potato mixture can go into a casserole and baked along side the squash.
The extra mixture cooked in a casserole, the traditional Swedish way.
A traditional Swedish potato and onion casserole served with acorn squash and topped with Gruyere.
2 cups of waxy or red potatoes, sliced thin
1 medium yellow onion, sliced thin
2 fillets of pickled herring or a small tin of Swedish pickled sprats
1 cup of heavy cream
4 Tbs of salted butter
2 acorn squash sliced into 1 inch rings
6 oz gruyere, shredded
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- Place potatoes and onions in a large bowl.
- Add fish to cream in a small bowl and mash fish with fork and stir.
- Pour cream and fish mixture into potato mixture and stir to combine.
- Place squash rings in a baking dish or on rimmed baking sheet.
- Scoop mixture from large bowl into rings, dot with butter and top with cheese.
- Cover loosely with foil and bake 45 minutes, or until squash is fork tender, uncover and cook 15 minutes more, or until golden brown on top.
- Serve and enjoy!