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January 2022

January 28, 2022

Persetorsk (Bergen Pressed Cod)

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Persetorsk “pressed cod” is a traditional dish that is distinctive to the city of Bergen. Its identity is rooted in the food culture as an authentic representation of traditional Bergen fare, and one that is going through something of a renaissance.

The uniqueness of persetorsk lies in the method, where fresh cod filets are rubbed with salt and sugar and then pressed (weighed down) for a good amount of time before being cooked. This transforms the texture of the fish, resulting in firmer filets which flake off in hearty chunks when eaten, similar to that of halibut. The salt and sugar also provide a wonderful robust flavor to the cod that is unique to this dish.

Traditionally, persetorsk was served with egg butter, boiled potatoes, and carrots. The ingredients suggest such a dish would have been enjoyed by the middle and upper classes and eaten around Christmas. Today, you’ll find it served at many restaurants in Bergen, often featuring a side of peas and a butter sauce – with or without the addition of egg.

In 2020, the City Council of Bergen established January 28 as the official Persetorsk Day to mark the city’s 950th anniversary and honor this incredible dish. In celebration of this day, I’m sharing a recipe for persetorsk that you can easily make at home. I like to serve mine with crushed peas, a simple butter sauce, boiled potatoes, and pan-fried buttery carrot ribbons on top, which add a lovely sweetness. Some people serve it with bacon, which you can also do as a substitute for the carrots.

pressed cod
pressed cod

Once you have persetorsk, you’ll never go back. It’s one of the most delicious cod dishes ever bestowed upon us.

Persetorsk (Bergen Pressed Cod)

Serves 4

For the cod:

  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 2.2 pounds (1 kg) fresh, skin-on, boneless cod filets, preferably from the back loin

For the peas:

  • 2 cups (480 ml) frozen peas
  • 2 tablespoons (28 g) lightly salted butter
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) heavy cream

For the pan-fried carrots:

  • 2 tablespoons (28 g) lightly salted butter
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled into thin ribbons with a vegetable peeler

For the butter sauce:

  • ¼ cup (60 ml) heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons (100 g) lightly salted butter
  • ½ tablespoon lemon juice
  • Sea salt, to taste

Boiled potatoes, to serve

In a small bowl, combine the sugar and salt. Spread the mixture evenly over the flesh part of the filets. Place one of the filets, skin side down, in a large baking dish. Place the other filet on top with the skin side up, so the flesh of both filets is pressing against each other and the skin in on the outside. Cover the filets with a cutting board or a similar sized dish and top with something that weights roughly 6 ½ pounds (3 kg), such as an iron pot or a few liters of milk. Refrigerate for 12 hours. Rinse the filets under cold running water. Cut the filets into large individual cuts.  

For the peas, in a medium saucepan, cook the peas and butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until the butter is melted and the peas are heated through. Stir in the heavy cream and mash the peas with a fork, leaving coarser pieces. Season to taste with salt and a squeeze of lemon. Cover and keep warm.

For the carrots, in a large frying pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat until golden brown. Add the carrot ribbons and a pinch of salt, and cook for 6 to 8 minutes or until golden and somewhat crispy. Set aside and cover to keep warm.  

For the butter sauce, in a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a simmer over medium-high heat. Lower the heat, then whisk in the cold butter cubes, a few at a time, until just melted and the sauce has thickened some. Remove from the stove. Stir in the lemon juice and season to taste with sea salt.

Fill a large pot with cold water and bring the water to a gentle simmer over medium heat, but do not let it boil. Gently slip the cod pieces into the water, reduce the heat to the lowest setting, and poach the fish for 8 to 10 minutes. Carefully remove the fish with a slotted spoon. Serve immediately while warm with the butter sauce, crushed peas, boiled potatoes, and pan-fried carrot strips on top. 

Nevada Berg

Nevada is a utah native and norwegian by heart. When not crafting culinary delights she enjoys her family time and tending to her animals. You most certainly can find her perusing her property for wild berries.

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  1. Roz says:

    This dish looks wonderful! I can’t wait to try it. I lived in Maine one winter and a friend would make a dish with a hake loin very similar to the cod. She would salt the hake overnight. The next day boil carrots, parsnips, turnips and potatoes and onions. Then use this veggie stock to simmer the rinsed hake. At the same time she would take bacon and render the fat, add a bit of flour and milk and make a roux with a bit of the veggie stock. I never knew the name of the dish, but your cod brings back those tastes and smells! Thank you! Take care of yourself and someone else!

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