Jansson’s Temptation

Seattle-based blogger Janelle has a category on her Talk of Tomatoes blog called Default Dinners, for those old standbys that you make over and over again when you are short of ideas, ingredients, time, or money (or all of them of course!). Immediately I read this, I thought, “Why have I never posted the recipe for Jansson’s Temptation?” Probably because I’ve cooked it for 25 years and don’t need a recipe. And surely everyone knows how to cook it, don’t they?

Well, OK, a quick Google shows that there are loads of recipes for it on the web, and even a whole Wikipedia page. But this is how I do it. I don’t like anchovies much, but they are essential (even if Wikipedia says they should be sprats), and the flavour is subtle, so don’t leave them out. I have been known to distribute them carefully so that most of them are in Steve’s half.

In short, I love potatoes, and this is one of my favourite ways of cooking them.

For two people:

Two or three large potatoes, depending on how hungry you are
1 onion
1 200 ml carton single cream
1 can anchovies in olive oil

I always use a flame-red oval Le Creuset casserole with lid for this — it’s just the right size for two, and it looks cheerful on cold winter nights. Melt some butter in it, finely chop the onion, and stew it very gently in the butter with the lid on while you prepare the potatoes. Preheat the oven to 200C.

Peel the potatoes and cut them into matchsticks. Maybe you have a fancy machine to do this. I just slice them in one direction, then remove a slice from one end to make a flat surface, rotate 90 degrees, and slice the other way. Wrap them briefly in a clean tea-towel to dry them (I don’t know what difference this makes, but it’s become part of my routine). Remove the anchovies from the can, reserving the oil, and chop finely.

When the onions are soft and translucent, add the potatoes and anchovies and mix everything together thoroughly. Pour over half the cream and all of the oil from the anchovies, cover, and bake for 20 minutes. Then remove the lid, pour over the rest of the cream, and sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top. Add either dots of butter or a drizzle of olive oil and bake for another 15 minutes. Test by prodding with a thin knife. It should pierce the potatoes easily; if it doesn’t put it back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes.

Swedes eat this with dill pickles; I usually serve peas with it.

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