A confession….I am not from Sweden, Denmark or Norway. I am an American with Scandinavian roots. My grandmother on my Dad’s side was Swedish, my grandmother on my Mom’s side was Norwegian and Danish, and my grandfather was Norwegian. Growing up here in the United States in the 1970’s and 80’s, my family ate a very typical American diet. The only time that we really prepared foods that reflected our Scandinavian heritage was during the holidays. Beginning with lefse (Norwegian potato flatbread) at Thanksgiving and continuing on through Christmas with rommegröt (Norwegian sour cream pudding), pickled herring, stirred lingonberries, Swedish meatballs and pancakes (just to name a few), we managed to pack a lot of Nordic recipes into a short 6 week time frame. But the rest of the year…not so much.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve wondered about this holiday-centric approach to celebrating one’s ancestry in the kitchen, which I’m sure is not unique to my family. I began to be curious about what Scandinavians ate on an every day basis, not just at Christmas. I’ve done a lot of reading, cooking and baking on the subject and I’m hoping to share a bit of what I’ve learned here on the blog. Know that what I share here in terms of recipes is simply my take on what I’ve read and learned about Nordic cuisine over the last few years and through my experience of growing up in a family with Scandinavian heritage. I don’t claim to be an expert (I’ve never even travelled to Scandinavia!), but I will share with you the unique ways in which I am inspired by Nordic cuisine in my own kitchen. And I’m sure I’ll share a family recipe or two along the way!
In my last post, we covered the basics of smørrebrød. Let’s get down to business with this classic example of the Nordic open face sandwich. My research suggests that Scandinavians are fond of putting cold potatoes on their sandwiches. This might sound odd but it is actually quite delicious and a fabulous use for leftover boiled potatoes from last night’s dinner. Thinly sliced potatoes with a garlicky mayo sauce and crispy shallots that taste like little baby onion rings. What’s not to love?
Smørrebrød with New Potatoes, Aïoli and Crispy Shallots
Adapted from The Scandi Kitchen by Brontë Aurell and Open Sandwiches by Trine Hahnemann
4 thin slices dense rye bread, a little over 1/4 inch thick
Butter, preferably salted
A handful or two of baby arugula leaves
4-5 new potatoes
Quick Aïoli, recipe below
Crispy shallots, recipe below
1 Tablespoon chopped chives or dill, and/or microgreens
Salt and freshly ground pepper
- Place new potatoes in cold water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and continue to cook for 10-15 minutes, until potatoes are tender but not falling apart. Smaller potatoes will obviously cook more quickly than larger potatoes. Check doneness by piercing a potato or two with the tip of a sharp knife. It should slide in and out easily without much resistance. Drain potatoes and rinse with cold water. Set aside to cool. Potatoes can be prepared up to three days in advance. Store in the refrigerator.
- Butter each slice of bread. Place a layer of baby arugula leaves on top. Slice new potatoes into thin (1/4 inch thick) slices and arrange artfully over the arugula. Salt and pepper the potato slices to taste. Drizzle aïoli over potatoes (I like to place the sauce in the center between the two rows of potato slices) and scatter crispy shallots and herbs and/or microgreens on top. Serve.
Adapted from Bon Appetit magazine
Makes 1/4 cup
1 small garlic clove
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup prepared mayonnaise
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Mince garlic clove and let sit in lemon juice for 10 minutes or so to mellow out the raw garlic flavor. Add mayonnaise and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Aïoli can be made up three days in advance. Store in the refrigerator.
Crispy Fried Shallots
Adapted from The Scandi Kitchen by Brontë Aurell
Makes approximately 1 cup of shallots
3 medium-size shallots, sliced into thin rings, rings separated from one another
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 cup canola, peanut or vegetable oil for frying
Course sea salt for sprinkling
- Combine flour, salt and a few grinds of pepper in a large ziploc bag. Add shallots, seal and toss around until shallots are coated with flour mixture.
- Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan until it reaches 280 degrees. It’s worth using a thermometer here if you have one. If the oil is too hot, the shallots will burn and if it is too cool they will be soggy.
- Remove half of the shallots from the bag, shaking off any excess flour. Place in pan and fry until golden brown and crispy. This may take as little as two minutes or as long as five. Keep your eye on them and look for the visual cues. Remove from oil using a slotted spoon. Place on paper towels and allow to drain. Sprinkle with sea salt and allow them to cool slightly and crisp up. Repeat with the other half of the shallots.
Shallots can be used immediately or stored in the refrigerator for 5-7 days. Mine usually stay pretty crisp, but you could warm them in a 200 degree oven to crisp them up if necessary.