Happy 2015! Here’s to another year of deliciousness!!
Seared tuna with yuzu zest
Smoked salmon salad
As documented in Christmas posts (here, here and here) from previous years, most of our family’s Christmas celebrating occurs on Christmas Eve. Dinner is always Norwegian meatballs, mashed potatoes, green beans, cucumber salad and lefse. This is followed by opening of presents and the eating of cookies. While traditionally, the great Norwegian-American Christmas Eve dinner features lutefisk, my in-laws have abandoned this as no one in the family actually likes eating dried aged codfish treated with lye and soaked in water until it is a gelatinous fishy blob. I’ve heard rumors that actual Norwegians in Norway have stopped eating the stuff but the proud Norwegian-Americans have stuck to their immigrant traditions and are now the main consumers of lutefisk during the holidays. While I’ve never had lutefisk, having a love of all things meatball, I’ve grown very fond of this Christmas meatball dinner tradition.
This year, I got an email from Chinese Santa, aka Yuan, wishing me a Merry Christmas and missing our Christmas Eve meatball dinners. So Yuan, Merry Christmas and here’s the meatball recipe so you can make it in Shanghai!
From the kitchen of Grandma Lorraine with notes from Grandma Dorothy
Make fresh bread crumbs by putting a few slices of white bread in the food processor and remove bread crumbs. Then, chop the onion in the food processor. Using your hands, mix together ground beef, onion, bread crumbs, eggs, salt and pepper. Add milk gradually – you may not need the whole cup, the meat mixture should be soft and easily molded into small balls. Roll meat mixture into balls and drop into hot oil. Pan can be very crowded. Fry on each side until VERY brown, almost burned is okay and will make for a richer gravy.
When meatballs are sufficiently brown, take off heat and remove extra oil/fat from the pan. Pour a small amount of water and simmer meatballs for about 30 min. You may need to add a little more water as you go along. When meatballs are done, remove them from pan and add potato water to the pan (because of course you will be preparing mashed potatoes to go with the meatballs!) to ‘deglaze’ (I doubt any Norwegian woman ever used that term). Mix flour with water to make a slurry and add it to the gravy. Bring gravy to a boil to thicken. Put meatballs back into the gravy to keep warm until ready to serve.
Everyone seems to have some sort of potato pancake treat for the holidays. For Norwegian-Americans, it is lefse. Lefse is basically a potato crepe/tortilla. Clearly, I am not Norwegian (see name of blog), but my hubby is and seeing as when I was growing up, my family usually went to the Chinese restaurant for Christmas, we now do Christmas around here Norwegian-American style. I admit that at first, I did not really know what all the excitement was about. Lefse is pretty much just potatoes and flour and it was strange for me to eat my potatoes with butter and sugar. In fact, I horrified my in-laws one year by using the lefse as a tortilla to wrap my Christmas duck with hoisin sauce – it was delicious. But, over the years, I have come to appreciate lefse as a holiday staple.
This holiday season, it seemed like lefse got a lot of press with a video and recipe in the New York Times and more recently on NPR, so I felt compelled to do a special lefse post along with this lefse glamour shot.
Like all Norwegian recipes, lefse requires a lot of specialized equipment and I have come around to admit that some of this specialized equipment makes the process easier. First, the lefse rolling pin – my mother-in-law admits that a grooved rolling pin is not necessary and in fact, cleaning the dough out of the grooves is not worth the distinctive pattern it makes on the lefse. Second, pastry cloth – this is an absolute must to be able to roll out the dough to the desired thinness without it sticking and ripping. Investing in this item last year has made all the difference. Third, the lefse stick – the first lefse item we obtained and makes it possible to get the lefse from the pastry board to the griddle, flip the lefse on the griddle, and get it off the griddle without tearing and falling apart. The New York Times video shows a nice Norwegian-American grandma demonstrating some expert technique with the lefse stick. Lastly, the lefse griddle – while we just have a pancake griddle we use, it doesn’t get quite hot enough to prevent some crispiness around the edges. A lefse griddle heats up to 500 degrees and the high heat enables you to cook the lefse so it does not burn or get dry and crispy and cooks while maintaining its soft pliability and get the distinctive brown spots.
Our recipe uses potato buds. It’s an easy way to get the necessary fine texture for the potatoes and given everything else going on during the holidays, a welcome cheat. Maybe one of these years, we’ll have to try to boil and rice real potatoes for it. When we do, I’ll update this post.
Mix melted butter and boiling water and add to the potatoes. Add salt and milk and stir. Add flour and stir with hands until mixed and uniform. Place in refrigerator until cool, about a hour or two.
Roll dough into golf-ball sized balls. Place dough ball onto a liberally floured pastry cloth and roll very thin. You want to avoid the dough sticking at all so keep flouring throughout the process. Fry dry (i.e. no fat) on a lefse griddle at 500 degrees. Turn when brown spots appear, about 30 seconds per side.
Spread with room temperature butter and sprinkle with sugar. Roll up lefse and enjoy.
This post was approved by my Viking hubby who does all the lefse making in this family.
My friend Heather made this for me one Christmas and I’ve been making it ever year since. On average, I make at least 3 batches every holiday season to give away as gifts. It is seriously delicious. It is not hard to make, but candy can be finicky and a bit of a science experiment, so a good tip is to never walk away from it. Small deviations from the exact instructions will result in a complete do-over.
From Heather’s fabulous kitchen
Makes about 2 pounds
Bake 1/2 cup of almonds on a non-stick cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 6-8 minutes or until toasted and aromatic. Set aside to cool.
Line a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper and set next to stove.
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When butter is melted, stir in granulated sugar, warm water and salt. Attach a thermometer to the side of the pan making sure that the bulb is not touching the bottom of the pan. Cook sugar mixture over medium heat, without stirring, until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F. The temperature may stall a bit between 218 and 223 degrees but again, it is important to monitor the temperature closely and to not walk away from the candy.
At 240 degrees, add remaining 1 cup of almonds to the sugar mixture. Stir constantly, keeping heat at medium, until mixture reaches 295 degrees F. If temperature is not rising at a slow and steady rate, raise heat very slightly. When the mixture reaches 295 degrees, immediately remove from what and stir in baking soda. Pour onto the parchment lined pan and spread to desired thickness – it does not need to reach the edges of the pan. Mixture will begin to firm. Note: Do not forego the cookie sheet and pour it onto parchment on top of a marble or granite counter – this will result in your candy cooling too fast and affect the chocolate’s ability to adhere properly to the candy.
Scatter dark chocolate pieces across top of hot candy and let chocolate melt on top of the candy as the candy firms. Using back of a spoon, spread melted chocolate evenly over firm candy. Sprinkle with toasted almonds over melted chocolate. Let candy cool for 30 minutes at room temperature. Transfer to refrigerator and chill for about 1 hour to firm chocolate. Break into pieces.
Merry Christmas! I am sharing some Christmas cookie recipes from my mother-in-law. I could eat a million of these pecan rocks and I really like this half recipe of Toll House chocolate chip cookies that result in a flatter, crispier cookie than the one that is currently on the package. The rolled chocolate cookies are a nice alternative to the traditional sugar cookie and fun because you get to use cookie cutters. Enjoy!
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Cream butter, add sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth. Sift in flour, mix thoroughly, add nuts. Roll into balls – they do get bigger when they bake so don’t make them too big. Bake for 35-40 min. Cool completely and roll in powdered sugar.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from the Tollhouse Recipe
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine flour, salt and baking soda and set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla. Add the egg and water and mix. Gradually mix in dry ingredients. Fold in chocolate chips. Drop tbsp sized spoonfuls onto parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 min.
Rolled Chocolate Cookies
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside. Cream butter and sugar. Add chocolate. Fold int dry ingredients and form dough into ball. Chill dough in refrigerator for 1 hour. Roll out dough to 1/8 inch thick. Cut out into Christmas cookie shapes with cookie cutters. Bake for 8-10 min.