Dear Beatrice Ojakangas:
Thank you for another delicious Scandinavian Saturday supper. Your book Scandinavian Cooking gave me the inspiration (and the recipes) for yet another meal of dishes we had never even heard of before. My adventuresome family are always happy to try whatever I make, so I enjoyed leafing through the pages of your cookbook last evening to find unfamiliar items to make up tonight's menu.
It was Hillary's turn to be my helper today, but she ended up drawing a bye. She spent the night with a friend (who had a birthday party and invited Hillary to join several other girls for a sleepover last night), so she wasn't home this morning when I went grocery shopping for the ingredients for tonight's supper. The slumber party participants didn't slumber until the wee hours of the morning, so Hillary needed a nap once she got home--and slept through my late-morning food preparation. I woke her up to join us for dinner at noon, after which she and her sisters hunkered down in the family room to watch a Disney movie that we had recorded several days ago and saved for their weekend viewing--so Hillary missed all the food preparation throughout the afternoon, too.
I didn't really mind, though. In fact, it was kind of funny to note her obliviousness throughout the day. Whenever she would pass through the kitchen, I'd say, "Hillary, should we turn on the oven light and peek at the pork that we're making?" She'd say, "Sure!" and take a look, note how nummy it appeared, and then continue on her way, apparently feeling no guilt that her part of "we" was not helping my part of "we" in the least bit. Cute!
Anyway, Beatrice (may I call you "Beatrice"?), this morning I made the marinade and got the meat into it, made the dessert and got it into the refrigerator, and prepped the vegetables for the side dishes (marinating the sliced veggies for the cold dish and shredding the veggies for the baked dish to make this afternoon). This afternoon I set the table, baked and basted the pork, assembled and baked the casserole, whipped some cream for the dessert, and made the sauce for the meat. May I tell you which of your recipes I used?
Danish stegt svinekam ["roast pork"]
I couldn't get one pork loin roast big enough to meet your recommendation, so I got two and marinated them in port wine, red wine vinegar, juniper berries, ground allspice, ground ginger, and salt. The roasts soaked in that for about six hours and then were basted in it during their three hours in the oven. You told me to use the pan drippings to make the sauce, but much of the basting liquid had evaporated; so I improvised, stretching the pan drippings with chicken stock that we had in the fridge. I completed the sauce with cream, crumbled Danish bleu cheese, and red currant jelly. The basting created a delicious crust on the outside of the meat, which was tender and moist inside; and the sauce was a savory accompaniment to the pork.
Finnish porkkanalaatikko ["the carrot box"]
I shredded the carrots this morning and let them sit in the refrigerator until I was ready to make this carrot casserole once the pork was nearly done. I cooked some white rice and combined it with the shredded carrots, milk, brown sugar, eggs, and seasoned salt (I know, I know--you said to use just salt). I stirred garlic breadcrumbs (I know, I know--you said to use just breadcrumbs) into melted butter and then sprinkled that atop the carrot-and-rice mixture in a baking pan. The carrots were tender but still tasted fresh and slightly sweet, which was a pleasant contrast to the savory crust created by the breadcrumbs. Once on our plates, the casserole soaked up a bit of the bleu cheese sauce from the pork, which gave it a bite that tasted great with the carrots.
Danish agurkesalat ["cucumber salad"]
Yesterday my boss brought to work a bag of cucumbers from his garden and offered them to anybody who was interested. I took several home and used a couple for this recipe, slicing them paper-thin and marinating them for six hours in water, white vinegar, ground white pepper, salt, and sugar. I drained them before serving them. They had a distinct sweetness to them, but the pepper took us all by surprise by giving the cucumbers a certain level of heat that we weren't prepared for since we couldn't see the white pepper on the cukes. Crunchy, fresh, sweet-'n'-spicy, and delicious.
Norwegian lefse (a potato-based soft flatbread)
Yesterday some members of our Sons of Norway lodge were at the high school where Susan works to join a cooking class there as guests to help the students make lefse. They gave Susan some rounds of lefse to take home, and we ate them with supper tonight. Let me tell ya, those high school students learned very well from the expert Sons of Norway bakers! The lefse was soft and moist, just exactly the right thickness, and melt-in-your-mouth rich with butter and sugar on them.
I cooked together rye flour, cornstarch, sugar, salt, cranberry juice, and dark corn syrup, whisking nearly continuously for the 20 minutes that it was on the heat and the 10 minutes that it cooled over an ice bath afterward. I let it chill in the refrigerator all day long, and just before supper, I made homemade whipped cream (with lots of sugar and vanilla extract) that was light-as-air but so thick and firm that I could probably have made a spoon stand upright in it! We liked the unusual flavor of the cranberry-rye pudding. The "dark" flavors of the rye, the cranberry, and the dark syrup were subtle but definitely noticeable, making the "light" flavor of the whipped cream the perfect accompaniment.
Along with water in drinking glasses, I served goblets of cranberry juice (with vodka added for Susan and me) to round out the meal. We thoroughly enjoyed every dish, Beatrice, and left the table satisfied but not miserable (or, as Abigail put it, "I'm full but not Thanksgiving full"). The agurkesalat made one hearty serving for each of us, but there is enough left over of everything else for another meal tomorrow. Thanks again for assembling all these recipes in one terrific Scandinavian cookbook. (And thanks for writing more than one such cookbook, two more of which I own, too!) Stay tuned to see what other recipes of yours will show up on our table in the coming weeks and months.