Scandia’s annual dinner Nov. 21
Lutefisk. Some have never heard of it, but those who have are often on one of two sides: love it, or hate it. No matter what, the cold weather means the traditional Scandinavian tradition of a Lutefisk dinner in Scandia is coming, and Mark and Carol Rossi are preparing to make this unique cuisine for the event.
“It’s been about 15 years that we’ve been making lutefisk for the dinner in Scandia,” says lutefisk chef, Carol Rossi. “I grew up in a household with it, but I never had to try it because my mom didn’t like it. But, she did cook it for my dad and my grandpa. It’s been more of our adult lives that we’ve been enjoying it.”
“I have a certain remembrance of my dad and how he used to like it,” says Mark Rossi. “So, that’s just one of the reasons that I still like to eat it.” So, what exactly is lutefisk and why is it such a divisive food?
“It’s just codfish and what makes it lutefisk is the process,” says Carol. “It was used back in the day by the Scandinavians to take on ships for protein, so they dried it by hanging it out on racks in the coastal areas of Scandinavia where the climate is very dry. Then it gets rehydrated – which is what it’s like when we get it – and it very much looks like cod. In order to cook it, we cut it into four to six inch pieces and then we bake it until it’s warm and flaky.”
After preparation, the lutefisk is served with either melted butter, or a cream sauce depending on Norwegian or Swedish tradition. Despite what sounds like a simple process, many turn their noses up at the thought of eating dehydrated and rehydrated fish, but Mark and Carol assure that it’s worth a try at the very least.
“It really just tastes like fish,” says Carol. “I think a lot of the flavor comes from the butter and the cream sauce.” Mark agrees, saying, “I love eating it. I think it’s really good. You just have to try it to find out whether you like it or not.”
The upcoming dinner takes a lot of preparation serving nearly 500 people every year which means nearly 500 pounds of lutefisk. While many of the other food items are prepared ahead of time, Mark, Carol and their team are cooking the Lutefisk constantly throughout the day. “Typically the rule has been a pound per person,” says Mark. “The trick is having enough ready at any given time so that none of it is overcooked, or undercooked, and you can’t speed up the cooking. You can only cook it so fast and at a certain temperature.”
While Mark and Carol are often regarded as the lutefisk chefs they give credit where it’s due to the team of people cooking with them during this annual event. “We tend to be the representatives of it; however, there are a number of key people that are needed to cook this stuff, and the community service workers make this possible every year.”
This year’s dinner is November 21 from noon to 6 p.m. at the Scandia Community Center and Mark and Carol encourage all who are interested, or brave, to attend. “This is a wonderful tradition for our Scandinavian heritage, and we hope that everyone can come and enjoy it,” says Mark.