Twice in one week, simply by coincidence, not by me going out looking for trouble, I used recipes with instructions that called for making a sticky gooey mess. That may tell us something about Nordic desserts. First was sticky gooey cake – I don’t know if that’s the literal translation of “Kladdkaka” or just an interpretation of what the dish ought to be called – there’s a recipe here. It is, as promised, a sticky and gooey chocolate cake. And then Semlors. Semlors are little brioche-y cardamom buns baked, then the insides removed and mooshed together with marzipan and cream (into a gooey mess), and added back in, and topped with whipped cream then floated in a dish of milk just for good measure. Here is an article and also a recipe.
These all go well with coffee.
There are enough entries in the Nordic Desserts category to last several lifetimes. If you’re looking for some serious projects, I’ve got two cakes on my “when I have lots of time and a potentially-appreciative audience” list: the Princess Cake (featured in the creepy book Far, Far Away) and the 18 layer Kransekake (I remember staring at one of these for most of my aunt’s Norwegian wedding when I was 6, but I don’t remember what it tasted like).
Moving on from dessert – a mystery of Nordic cooking explained: who was Jansson and why was this person tempted by a dish of potatoes, cream, and Swedish anchovies (which are in reality sprats, a type of herring, and not anchovies)? Most likely, it was named for the famous (in Sweden) opera singer Pelle Janzon because why not market your casserole that way? I’m going to invent a dish and name it Adele’s Temptation or Springsteen’s Temptation – in fact, surely there’s a food item on the boardwalk in New Jersey called Springsteen’s Temptation and if there isn’t then perhaps there’s a drink in a bar and if not then . . . . that’s a missed opportunity.
It’s an easy dish to make. Here is a recipe. I chose to interpret the “pickled sprats” as “kippered herring.”
Speaking of Swedish casseroles, have you ever tried a Flying Jacob? I have. It’s chicken, bananas, peanuts, bacon, chili sauce, cream. Here’s a recipe – I like this blog post version of it because the author tracks down and posts the original version. It’s. . .less weird than it sounds. In fact, I was hoping for more weird.
Next up: Iceland Style Hot Dogs. We can’t actually get Icelandic hot dogs because their hot dogs are made differently, including lamb meat. But they taste close enough to our hot dogs and adding their toppings creates “Iceland Style Hot Dogs”. Apply to the bun in this order: Remoulade, French’s fried onions, hot dog, sweet brown mustard, ketchup, minced white onion. A travel article about these dogs from Conde Nast Traveler is linked here.
We also had “Iceland Style Lamb” on the menu for Thursday night. This is sort of riffing off two things – one is the combination of the flavor of sea and land in lamb. I’ve seen “seaweed fed lamb” on the menu in Canada before (and ordered it) – here I simply added Dulse flakes to rice as the base of the lamb dish. The other main flavor component was a combination of dates, mushrooms, and (again) briny flavors. That sounds gross, but I’ve in fact been in Iceland, and eaten at an Icelandic-Peruvian-Japanese fusion restaurant where this sort of flavor combination went on. Then, I found this recipe from Denmark for kale with capers and dates that seemed to support my memory of what I’d been eating. I added the mushrooms. That’s how we ended up with an Iceland-inspired lamb dish.
So, to assemble the dish described above:
- White rice cooked with a generous sprinkle of dulse flakes
- Top with this Danish kale recipe, tossed with roasted mushroom slices (slice a mushroom, toss the slices with olive oil, roast at 400-degrees until . . . roasted. It won’t take long)
- Top that with thin slices of lamb shoulder quickly cooked in a skillet (if eating by myself I’d make them practically raw, because we serve everything family style I cook it all medium for restaurant purposes)
- If I were to do it again, I would sprinkle sesame seeds on top. I thought of that after the fact while eating leftovers.
Those are just a few of the many dishes to try out in Nordic food, which I have to say I enjoyed immensely. There are several recent cookbooks that can help you explore this cuisine if you want to learn more:
- Fire & Ice: Classic Nordic Cooking by Darra Goldstein
- The Nordic Cookbook by Magnus Nilsson
- Fika: Art of the Swedish Coffee Break by Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall
- Relae: A Book of Ideas by Christian Puglisi (Neo-Nordic)
- A Work In Progress and NOMA: Time & Place in Nordic Cuisine by Rene Redzepi (Neo-Nordic)