Authentic Recipe from Icelandic Chef Stefan of Þrír Frakkar
Welcome to The Storied Recipe Podcast, a podcast about food, culture, and love.
This recipe for Plokkfiskur, a cornerstone dish of Icelandic cuisine came from my podcast guest, Chef Stefan of the famous Reykjavik restaurant, Þrír Frakkar. Chef Stefan learned to make this dish in his grandmother's kitchen.
Make sure you listen to his episode Famed Icelandic Chef Stefan of Þrír Frakkar while you make his traditional Icelandic Fish Stew recipe. , with roots in his grandmother's kitchen.
Traditional Plokkfiskur has been a staple in Icelandic kitchens since early times. As Chef Stefan explains, this hearty dish was always a simple but satisfying combination of leftover fish, potatoes, onion, and a simple white sauce (Béchamel Sauce, if you want to use the fancy name). It was always served with hearty, sweet Icelandic Rye bread (Rúgbrauð), which housewives used to cook in the hot springs!
In his famous Reykjavik restaurant, Þrír Frakkar, Chef Stefan has taken his grandmother's traditional recipe (including her sprinkle of curry) and elevated it with a higher ratio of fish to potato, usingly only fresh fish, sprinkling mild cheese on top before broiling, and serving with his own Bearnaise sauce (featuring parsley rather than tarragon.)
Whichever way you make, it, this is a true comfort food from the heart of Iceland.
(P.S. For a look at my latest visit to this beautiful country, click here.)
Look, Flavor, and Texture
- Expect it to look like a brothy and thick soup, but that was not the case. More between a pate and a casserole.
- Can spread on Icelandic brown bread
- Will depend on how small you mash the potatoes and fish.
- Golden brown on top, from broiling
- With or without cheese and with or without Bearnaise sauce
- Mild and simple, hearty and delicious
- With only 5 ingredients (plus seasonings), the best flavor will depend on the best choice of ingredients.
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Fish: I recommend Icelandic fresh cod fillets from Whole Foods. However! Any white fish will work. Remember, this recipe originated as a way to use up leftover fish.
- Potatoes: Red or gold will work. I prefer Yukon Golds, which smash pretty easily when they are boiled.
- Onion: White is best, as its sweet and mild. However, all I had on hand when I made and photographed this recipe was yellow. The flavor was great and similar to what I enjoyed at Stefan's restaurant.
- Butter: European butter is higher in fat and flavor than American butter. I couldn't find Icelandic butter, but if you can get your hands on Kerrigold or another European butter, that's a great substitute. Any European butter works.
- Flour: All purpose will work just fine here. 🙂
- Grated cheese: While not totally traditional, many restaurants now serve their Plokkfiskur with cheese broiled on top. Chef Stefan recommends a mild cheese. I used a very milk Gouda, which was delicious and certainy didn't overpower or conflict with the fish.
This classic Icelandic food couldn't be easier to make. Plus, every Icelandic home had its own recipe - so there's no real way to mess this up.
Boil Fish and Potatoes
- Quarter (or chop) and boil potatoes about 20 minutes.
- Poach the fish in salted water about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, while fish is cooking, dice your onions.
- Melt butter and saute onion. Sprinkle flour on top.
- Slowly whisk in milk to make a very thick sauce.
- In a casserole baking dish or dutch oven, stir the fish and potatoes until both are broken into small pieces.
- Add sauce until everything is bound together, but do not allow the mixture to become soupy.
- Season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of curry.
- Cover with a mild cheese and broil 10-15 minutes until bubbly and golden brown on top.
Consider Saving the Fish Stock
While Chef Stefan starts fresh when boiling his potatoes, many bloggers suggest saving your fish stock (the water you poached the fish in) to:
- Boil the potatoes
- Add to the roux (instead of milk) to make a dairy-free fish stew
- Make soup later
- Icelandic Rye Bread (This sweet, dark rye bread used to be cooked in the hot springs!)
- A homemade Béarnaise Sauce. I loved this recipe from the wonderful Nagi at Recipe Tin Eats. Also, note that Chef Stefan uses parsley instead of the typical tarragon in his Bearneaise.
What does "Plokkfiskur" mean? (How does it translate?)
- According to Google "plokk" can translate to plucked, pulled, or mashed fish. Which, of course, makes sense 🙂
Where can I find Icelandic cod?
- Whole foods sells fresh Icelandic cod for $14.99/lb (at last visit).
- You can also get it shipped to you at Blue Circle Foods
- Large pot for boiling potatoes
- Deep skillet for poaching fish and mixing sauce
- Casserole dish or Dutch Oven for broiling
- Best eaten fresh and made in
- I had good luck refrigerating it, then reheating in oven at 350.
More Scandinavian Recipes
More Seafood Dishes
Listen to Chef Stefan's Episode
Icelandic Chef Stefan discusses how Prir Frakkar “dared to be different” by creating an elevated menu from traditional Icelandic dishes, using almost exclusively Icelandic ingredients. We go into his family’s story, of course, and he educates me on the whaling industry, the Icelandic financial crisis in 2008, the resulting boom in tourism, and much more.