Documentary filmmakers look into the troubles, which escalate in Newford, North Dakota, a small town with a large population of Norwegian descendents. KARL LARSEN, a Schwan’s frozen food deliveryman with ambitions for a cooking career, explains that it all started one afternoon when a strange old man knocked on his door. The OLD MAN, a Norwegian fisherman, had an urgent message for him, but Karl didn’t understand Norwegian. So Karl invited him in for coffee and a bite to eat, and before the Old Man can get out another word, he dies face-first in Karl's three-bean hotdish.
Karl begins to receive threatening collect phone calls demanding the return of “the recipe”. He has no idea what this means so he brushes the threats aside. Later, when the brake lines on his Schwan’s truck are cut, his house ransacked, and he awakes one morning with a large codfish head in his bed, Karl begins to worry. As local POLICE CHIEF MARTY RAMSTAD employs his unconventional investigative skills (most of which he acquired watching “The Andy Griffith Show”), he deduces these threats have all the earmarks of the Norwegian mafia.
When Karl finds a parchment written in Old Norwegian behind his kitchen trashcan, he wonders if the strange old man dropped it before he died. Unable to decipher the writing, Karl has it translated by BROTHER COUSIN LOUIE, an eccentric Lutheran monk who lives in the woods making reproductions of religious scenes with taxidermied woodland creatures. It turns out the writing is an ancient recipe for lutefisk. Karl’s suspicion about this old lutefisk recipe and its possible link with the Norwegian mafia are quickly confirmed when GAIL RAMSTAD, his fiancé, is unexpectedly kidnapped during the Newford County cook-off while Karl is receiving his award for being a hotdish finalist. It’s all caught on tape when Gail’s video camera is dropped during the scuffle with her abductors.
The FBI is notified and despite Police Chief Marty's warnings, Karl agrees to work with AGENTS LEWIS AND CLARK in a sting operation to arrest the Norwegian mafia while making a trade: the recipe for Gail. But Karl’s rendezvous with the mafia at an ice warehouse turns out to be a complete disaster. This debacle prompts Police Chief Marty to hatch a new strategy, without the FBI’s assistance, whereby Karl will meet the mafia families at the local Lutheran church potluck and give them back their recipe.
At noon sharp, when the mafia families show up for their recipe, Marty’s plan backfires in more ways than one, especially when we learn Karl has secretly cooked up a plan of his own…