I was talking to one of my co-workers the other day about how easy it is for kids to research things online. When I was a kid (GET OFF MY LAWN!! warning), there was no “internet”. If you were assigned a report on the American Revolution, you had to hope that someone didn’t get to the library and check out the one or two books on the American Revolution before you did, otherwise, your “source” information was gleaned from whatever was in the reference section. Need a magazine article? Welcome to the wonderful world of microfiche and scrolling through months of other articles to get to yours. Now? Google it. Who needs patience in the age of information? I can probably get a George Washington Hologram to tell me about the American Revolution now.
This is my first sponsored post. For my first such post, I am tasked with writing about the food from the great country of Denmark. Upon learning of my assignment three food items popped into my head: the danish, Danish butter cookies, and pickled herring. I was really hoping that my first impressions could be greatly expanded to other foodstuffs. Luckily, I was right. Thanks to the internet, I was not only able to learn that the Danes have an app for their food (for real!), but I could get access to some really great, traditional recipes. Recipes that I probably couldn’t have found in my local library all those years ago. Lucky me!
Danish food is experiencing a bit of a renaissance, as a Danish restaurant, Noma, holds the distinction of being the best restaurant in the world. Also, Aamanns-Copenhagen, a very Danish restaurant, has opened in New York City to great fanfare. I was completely smitten by Adam Aamann when, during an interview with honestcooking.com (http://honestcooking.com/adam-aamann-and-the-reinvention-of-danish-smorrebrod/), he hit on something that I find so deeply ironic about food nowadays:
[Aamann] laughs briefly at the word “modern”, an adjective loosely used by food writers to describe anything that stands out. “It’s quite funny”, he says. “Nowadays modern means making your food from scratch; you would think it would be the other way around”.
Yes, yes you would. Aamann resuscitated the Danish standby of smørrebrød. Smørrebrød is an open faced sandwich that you eat with a knife and fork. Traditionally, the base is a hearty Danish rye bread and the toppings vary from cured meats, pickled fish to leftover frikadeller, or Danish meatballs. There’s no mayonnaise on the bread, just butter. This was definitely going to be an adventure if I’m going to do the smørrebrød. My kids have eaten traditional French breads like Challah and brioche, but rye would be a new experience. I realized I had a really hard sell ahead because my daughter was heartbroken to learn that the dark brown rye wasn’t really chocolate flavored.
So, I figured the easiest path would be frikadeller, a Danish meatball. More specifically, the national dish of Denmark. My kids LOVE meatballs. We could have traditional Danish frikadeller for dinner with red cabbage and then used the leftovers for a smørrebrød lunch. I’d cover traditional and new!
The meatballs were light and extremely easy to make. They were also very traditional. My kids LOVED them. The adults were sort of non-plussed. They were fine meatballs, but nothing spectacularly different. Honestly, it’s what I loved about them. No odd flavors. Unpretentious presentation and great texture. Simple, honest, clean food. Not overly fussy and very approachable.
The red cabbage was so easy to make. I LOVE the red cabbage sides when I go to German restaurants. I had no idea they were so simple to make. I am thrilled to learn how to make this dish, officially called rødkål. It’s beautiful and remarkably good for the trace amount of effort required. It’s also traditionally served at Christmas time and it’s so easy to see why. The color is amazingly festive! This dish will be on my to do list for Christmas!
Repurposing the frikadeller into smørrebrød the next day was ridiculously easy, and yet really good. Subbing the butter for the mayo made for a lighter, less gloppy lunch. It was almost cleaner, if that makes sense. And you can’t put an American amount of butter on the bread. You know, a bare scraping of butter. No, you need to put a layer thick enough on there so that when you bite through it, you can see teeth marks. My kind of butter layer!! Add the leftover frikadeller, rødkål, and dill pickles, and you have some amazing smørrebrød.
Rødkål (Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage)
Recipe inspired by: Scandinavian Today Blogspot (http://scandinavtoday.blogspot.com/2013/01/how-to-make-danish-red-cabbage-rdkaal.html)
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
1 head of red cabbage
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon red currant jelly
Remove tough outer leaves and white core of the cabbage. Slice the remaining cabbage into thin strips.
In a preheated saute pan, place the cabbage, vinegar, water, salt, sugar and pepper over medium heat. Stir occasionally and cook until tender for about 2 hours. Before serving, stir in the red currant jelly.
Frikadeller (Danish Meatballs)
Recipe inspired by allrecipes.com (http://allrecipes.com/recipe/frikadeller-danish-meatballs/)
Prep Time: 40 minutes (mostly chilling before cooking)
Cook Time: 30 minutes
1 medium onion, grated
1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground veal
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup seltzer water
1/2 teaspoon allspice
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/4 cup butter
Brown gravy (optional)
Mix together the onion, pork and veal until well combined. Forget all of the admonishments about overworking the meat for similar dishes. Stir the milk, eggs, bread crumbs, and flour into the meat mixture until well incorporated. Stir in the seltzer water, allspice and salt and pepper. Mix should be moist and more wet than a traditional meatloaf, but it should not be so overly wet as to lack consistency. Additional breadcrumbs or flour may be called for if the mixture is too wet. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
Heat the butter in a heavy bottomed skillet. Using a large spoon, pull oval shaped meatballs out of the mixture and fry in the butter, turning when well browned. Do not crowd the pan, or the meatballs won’t develop a nice brown crust. Remove meatballs when cooked through and set aside.
For the optional gravy: add 1/4 cup chopped onion to the leftover butter remains in the pan. Sauté until translucent. Add a tablespoon (or so) of flour and brown. When the flour reaches a nice color for gravy, add beef or chicken stock slowly, while whisking, until you get the gravy consistency you want. Add salt and pepper as needed.
As an aside, I received some wonderful Danish cheese from the sponsors of this post and the North Festival, Unika by Castello. I am under no obligation to mention this in my sponsored post. However, the cheese was amazing and why shouldn’t I say so? From the literature that came with the cheese, it’s no entirely clear that normal folks can get this cheese at their local cheesemonger. But, if you happen to see it, grab it. The two types of cheeses I received were Gnalling and Krondild. The Gnalling, a slightly harder cheese with an orange-tinged rind was very popular, especially among the kids. It’s smooth and rich with a slight bite. The Krondild was a really interesting, dill studded cheese. Dill pickles are among my most favorite things in the world. LOVE them. This cheese combines a rich, creamy cheese with the lovely taste of dill. Amazing with charcuterie.
Learn more about Nordic cuisine at the NORTH Festival 2013 in New York City. This post is a collaboration between the blogger and NORTH Festival 2013.