Saturday, March 07, 2009

A Man's Place Is in the Kitchen

Faithful Readers, surely you recall that Saturday evenings at our house call for a Scandinavian menu. When I suggested "Scandinavian Saturday" for the lineup of nightly specialty menus, the intent was to give impetus to our exploring foods from our cultural background, to expanding our repertoire of dishes from our rich Nordic heritage, to developing in our children an appreciation for ethnic foods that represent their own ancestry. I thought it would be good to go beyond the lutefisk, lefse, Jell-O, and hotdishes that people in the Midwest associate with Scandinavian cuisine and to see what foods appeal to the palates of northern Europeans.

Well, I think Scandinavian Saturday has served mostly to drive Susan nuts as she racks her brain for menu ideas. She's more German than Norwegian or Swedish, so discovering new Scandinavian delicacies is less meaningful to her than to me. Also, Norwegian and Swedish recipes are a little harder to come by than, say, Italian or French or Mexican or Greek; there just isn't the same market in North America for Norwegian cookbooks or Swedish restaurants as there is for some other ethnicities. Furthermore, when she turned to the Internet for help, she often found recipes that called for unfamiliar, inaccessible ingredients or that just didn't sound all that appealing (e.g., lamb, which I like but of which Susan is not a fan).

Even stretching the "rules" of Saturday night to allow for food from countries near Scandinavia (i.e., British fish-'n'-chips or German sauerkraut would qualify) didn't seem to help. I knew we had a situation when, about a week ago, she suggested a different alliterative theme to replace our weekly Scandinavian meal: "Soup and Salad Saturday." Uff-dah! There was only one thing I could do: offer to take over the cooking on Scandinavian Saturdays.

Abigail volunteered to be my assistant for this first attempt, so she and I went grocery shopping this afternoon and then returned home to start cooking. She was very helpful both in the grocery store and in the kitchen, fetching and measuring and stirring and scooping and taste-testing, etc. We created our own appetizer but followed recipes for the main course and dessert. Here is what we served:

We topped rye crisps with Gouda cheese, flaked salmon, and diced cucumbers and fresh dill.

These were gobbled up with rapid dispatch! We had hoped to use Jarlsberg cheese instead but couldn't find any. The Gouda was great, though.

main course
We served torsk with boiled leeks in a vinaigrette flavored with capers, shallots, and garlic. We also made a crab compote with potatoes.

The recipe called for halibut, but it was so expensive! The torsk was tasty but was so thick that it took longer to cook than we had anticipated and would have been better broiled than pan-fried. None of us could remember ever having had leeks before, but they were an immediate hit (probably because of the savory vinaigrette--our girls love capers!). The other dish was essentially smashed potatoes with flakes of crab mixed throughout. We had to make some substitutions for that dish, though: we used Red River potatoes in place of Greenland potatoes, chive sour cream in place of fresh chives and crème fraîche (which I didn't have time to make from scratch), and raspberry balsamic vinegar in place of elderberry flower vinegar. (I know what you're thinking: the grocery store had no elderberry flower vinegar?! It's a travesty.)

We served Veiled Farm Girls, apparently a traditional Norwegian dessert that is simple but refreshing: layers of applesauce, whipped cream, and sweetened bread crumbs.

We mixed the bread crumbs with sugar, cinnamon, and butter and browned them on the stove. We made our own whipped cream with plenty of sugar and vanilla extract. The recipe called for chopped hazelnuts as a garnish, but we couldn't find hazelnuts, so we improvised: we smeared a little Nutella in the bottom of each glass (we used martini glasses so that the layers would be easily visible), layered the ingredients in a decorative fashion, added a dollop of Nutella to the whipped cream layer on top, and sprinkled a dash of breadcrumbs over the whipped cream as a final garnish.

So, what do you think, kittens? Does that menu sound appealing to you? Does it sound Scandinavian?

A better question: Do you have any recipes to offer me for upcoming Scandinavian Saturdays?! I'm off the hook for next Saturday because I'll be out of town, but the Saturdays thereafter will just keep coming, and I'll need to be ready for them . . .


  1. When do you open up your Scandinavian restaurant? I'll stop by....

  2. 'Twas delicious -- thank you for taking over. Now, what happens if I stop coming up with ideas for the other days of the week? :-)

  3. Mmmmm Nutella! That brings back lots of memories from my europe trip. We typically made sandwiches for lunch every day, and once we ran out of our peanut butter (which we brought with us from here), nutella saved us:)

    Wish I could offer meal suggestions, but the only scandinavian meals we had at St. Olaf was at Christmas time: lutefisk

  4. I'm assuming you've already had Swedish Pancakes with lingonberry preserves.

  5. Wow, that's impressive. So, when are you trying out for Top Chef?