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Skrei, the wild and ‘athletic’ cod that returns home every year

The season has already started for this Norwegian ‘athlete’ who swims 1,000 kilometers upstream, from the cold Barents Sea to the Lofoten Islands, to spawn in the same place where he was born.

Skrei with polenta and ratatouille.

Not that it is a wonder of nature. Oh yes, because swimming 1,000 kilometers to countercurrent to go home may have spike tints. And the daring protagonist of this annual trip is none other than the scream, that fresh and wild Norwegian cod, whose name means nmada.

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These fish spend most of their lives in the cold Barents Sea until they reach maturity, a process that takes between five and seven years. When they are ready to reproduce they start – it is usually in the middle of November– a difficult journey of two or three months that will take them to the Lofoten Islands (in northern Norway, with warmer waters) to spawn in the same place where they were born. And it is right in the spawning season, between january and april, when they are captured – in a controlled manner, with a strict quota system, and sustainable – for enjoyment and enjoyment of the piscivores humans.

Scream monochrome
Monochromatic Skrei, from the Coque restaurant.

With ‘muscle’

Precisely, the harshness of this journey – in which they feed on shellfish and herring– and the unique characteristics that growing up in the Barents habitat gives them, make them unique specimens, almost “elite athletes” – admits Roy Magne Berglund, Norwegian chef and ambassador of this gastronomic delicacy.

Thus, we find a specimen of strong musculature (it is what swimming against the current has), with lean meat, firm white and shiny skin. With an intense and juicy flavor, it has almost no fat, since it is stored in the liver and not in the muscles.

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Grilled skrei tenderloin with zamburi
Grilled skrei loin with zamburias and bilbana, in Saraiba.

Rich in omega 3 and protein, it is now in full season, also in Spain, where it arrives whole, headless, and fresh. three or four days after being caught.

In recent times, skrei has become a popular product in these parts: each year we consume 3,000 tons And, last season alone, its intake increased in our country by 35%, according to data from the Norwegian Seafood Council.

Sello Skrei

But not all cod get the skrei stamp. To do this, the specimen must meet a series of requirements. Ah van: that has been fished between January 1 and April 30 in the natural spawning grounds fixed, weighing more than three kilos, cleaned and eviscerated the day of his capture, that between fishing and packaging no more than 12 hours have passed, that it has been refrigerated between 0 and -2 degrees throughout the value chain and has been tagged with a 12 day maximum life from its packaging.

Skrei, cauliflower, pickled razor clams with ratatouille gel and leek ash, in Urrechu Vel
Skrei, cauliflower, pickled razor clams with ratatouille gel and leek ash, in Urrechu Velzquez.

And gastronomically, how is this white fish that is caught in Norway? Chefs such as Mario sandoval (Coque restaurant), for whom it is a special product for its “flavor, fresh, intense and original, and above all for its texture and its versatility in the kitchen”. The Madrileo signs dishes like Skrei monocromtico, serving this season at its two Michelin stars.

Similar arguments used by Daniel Ferreiro, owner of Saraiba: “It has a more intense flavor and juicier meat.” In this Galician restaurant near Retiro they offer it grilled with romescu sauce and crispy arcula and they also prepare their tenderloin on the grill with zamburias y bilbana.

Skrei, white pilpil and melanosporum truffle, in La Lonja del Mar.
Skrei, white pilpil and melanosporum truffle, in La Lonja del Mar.

At Sal Negra, a traditional market restaurant, they faithfully follow the season and bet on skrei confit with its pilpil and piquillo pepper. While the Medina brothers, owners of the Basque Dantxari, with four decades of history in the capital, cook it with morel sauce. We are still in Madrid. In La Lonja del Mar they grab another winter delicatessen, the black truffle, to prepare the dish Skrei, white pilpil and melanosporum truffle parmentier. “It is a super versatile cod with the perfect amount of fat to make both modern and traditional preparations, such as pilpil”, adds Fernando Negri, chef de cuisine of this restaurant located opposite the Royal Palace.

With morels, in Dantxari.
With morels, in Dantxari.

And we closed in the capital with Urrechu. In Urrechu Velzquez they propose skrei, cauliflower, lightly pickled razor clams with ratatouille gel and leek ash and in Urrechu de Pozuelo de Alarcn they make it in tempura with noodles, brandade of crab, sphere of pickled mussel and air of celery. But the skrei not only arrives In Madrid, restaurants such as Zaragoza’s Novodabo also bet on him and he is one of the stars -prepared grilled with his pilpil- on their menu.

Dishes like these show its versatility, but there is still more, and that is that you can take advantage of almost everything: the head, the double chin, the guts, the liver and the tongue, true delicatessen in Nordic homes. Interestingly, according to tradition, only the children they can cut out tongues and sell them, marking their initiation into fishing.

Confit with its pilpil and piquillo pepper, in Black Salt.
Confit with its pilpil and piquillo pepper, in Black Salt.

Although there is not so much custom here, if you want get started with the scream at home, try to practice with the recipe proposed by Mario Sandoval – “marinated with chive vinaigrette, black olives and capers, a dish that combines the freshness of Norwegian cod with more powerful flavors “, points out the chef- or one of those found on the Norwegian Seafood website: on a bed of asparagus, with polenta and ratatouille, with risotto … even in tacos, stews or hamburgers.

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