Summer is road-trip season, so we're taking a culinary tour of America. But because Portland is a city of immigrants from other states, we don't have to leave town to do it. We're traveling to 50 Portland restaurants to try one distinctive food from each state. Our 50 Plates tour continues with lutefisk from Minnesota, which joined the union on May 21, 1858.
The state: Minnesota, where the majestic Mississippi River begins as a stream, where the money you give to Target is turned into anti-gay television advertisements, where Tea Party Queen Michele Bachmann is an elected official, and where the mosquitos soar. Minnesota is more liberal than neighboring Wisconsin.
The food: Lutefisk, cod dried in lye until gelatinous, which is of Nordic descent. Madison, Minnesota claims to be the nation’s lutefisk capital, and the dish is popular in church basements statewide.
Other foods considered and rejected: Walleye, wild rice, Honeycrisp apples.
Get it from: Newman’s Fish Market inside City Market on Northwest 21st Avenue, where the house recipe lutefisk is $9.99 a pound. They have it back in the deep freeze, in vacuum-sealed bags, but were kind enough to slice off a chunk for me. Actually, slice is the wrong word: the fishmonger chopped it off by putting a big, sharp knife on the fish and whacking it with a mallet.
It smells like a tide pool. I thawed my small piece overnight in the refrigerator then baked it at 375 for 20 minutes. The result? Lutefisk, at least the way I made it, is more texture than taste. The flavor recalled nori, the seaweed used to wrap sushi, and was rather unremarkable, but the texture of the fleshy fish jelly—still holding the structure of the fish’s ribbed muscles—was more interesting. My recommendation: wait to spot it on Broder’s menu or head down to the Sons of Norway lutefisk dinner (motto: “ignore the risk, try lutefisk”) on November 9.
Click on the map to see each state's distinctive food and where to get it in Portland.