I still remember the first time I read about Jansson’s Temptation and it was at least ten years ago. Since then I have been meaning to make it at least hundred times, so when I saw it on Charles’s blog (Five Euro Food) I felt it was high time I realised what was so special about it. This mysteriously named potato gratin is one of the biggest stars of the Swedish cuisine and, known as Janssonin kiusaus, it also appears on Finnish tables. According to wikipedia, some say it has been named after Pelle Janzon, a famous XIXth century Swedish singer, others claim the name comes from the 1928 film titled “Janssons frestelse”. I have also read some stories about a saint called Jansson… Whatever the origins, Jansson’s Temptation is much more than just another potato gratin.
Traditionally served for Christmas, but apparently also throughout the rest of the year, Jansson’s Temptation sounds as simple as most of the Swedish dishes. It is composed of layered potatoes, onions and pickled sprats (or anchovies), baked in a mixture of milk and cream. These outwardly ordinary ingredients produce an incredibly aromatic, complex and flavoursome gratin. Whoever Jansson was, I totally understand why he was tempted. Thank you, Charles, for making me discover the Swedish cuisine and its simple, but surprising delights! (Click here to see Charles’s recipe and photos.)
Even though the gratin is terrific in its traditional form, I must confess the second time I made it something pushed me towards slight modifications (I hope Charles will forgive me). First of all, since I am very fond of canned anchovies, I doubled their amount. The biggest modification however was the addition of white wine, which resulted in a sharper and less “homely” aroma and taste, but I loved this version. I strongly encourage you, however, to try it first without wine.
TIP: The original recipe calls for pickled sprats, difficult to get in certain countries, but I was delighted to use my beloved canned anchovies, advised by Charles as an excellent substitute.
Preparation: about 2 hours
Ingredients (serves four-six):
1 kg peeled potatoes, cut into matchsticks or into very thin slices (easy to make with a mandolin)
1 can (50g) pickled sprats or anchovies (or two cans if you love anchovies), cut into small pieces
200 ml liquid cream
about 200 ml milk
2 medium onions, finely sliced
30 g butter
(200 ml dry white wine)
Preheat the oven to 190°C.
Drain the anchovies/sprats and cut them into small pieces (do not throw the liquid/oil away).
Put a layer of potatoes in a baking dish, cover with onions and anchovies, sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Repeat this once or twice, ending with a potato layer on top.
Place small butter knobs on the top of the dish and bits of anchovies, if you still have some left.
Combine the cream with the drained pickling liquid or oil (and white wine, if using) and pour onto the gratin.
Bake for 30 minutes.
Take the dish out of the oven and lower the temperature to 140°C.
Cover the gratin with milk so that it arrives just below the last potato layer.
Sprinkle with bread crumbs and bake for about 1 hour until the top is golden brown.
Serve as a main course with a salad or as a hearty side dish.