Monday, March 1, 2010
In their book Norwegian National Recipes, Arne Brimi and Ardis Kaspersen write that Sour Cream Porridge, or Rømmegrøt, is without question a Norwegian national dish. Although they say that it's been served at parties and celebrations for centuries, R tells me that his family usually had a porridge like this one on Saturday afternoons, before the fancier meal reserved for Saturday nights. I don't think Americans are particularly familiar with all the versions of porridge out there, and we're certainly not used to eating them for meals other than breakfast. But this one is meant to be served as a main course, topped with raisins, sugar and cinnamon. Brimi and Kasperson also suggest a sprinkling of chopped hard-boiled egg, but R was having none of that.
The week before our Norwegian extravaganza, R and I traveled to Bay Ridge, New York to visit Nordic Delicacies, an authentic Norwegian deli, run by blond haired, blue eyes Norwegian expats and stocking all of the authentic foods you can't find elsewhere in the city. I'd had this porridge in mind when we went because it just sounded so, well, strange. And I'm a sucker for strange-sounding food. R insisted that it was very important to serve rømmegrøt with slices of cured mutton, called fenalår. In Norway, you'd be able to buy slices of fenalår, but I suppose there's not a huge market for it here in NYC, so the woman at Nordic Delicacies offered to sell us the entire leg of mutton. How do you turn down an entire leg? You don't. And we didn't. See below.
Without the fenalår, rømmegrøt tastes like a breakfast food to me, actually quite delicious (delicious enough for me to demand that R not throw away the leftover porridge so I could enjoy it again this morning. And enjoy it I did). But, as one of our guests, let's call him A said, (and I should mention that A is from Venice, so he knows his cured meats) the fenalår really brings the rømmegrøt, sugar, cinnamon and raisins together. In other words, the fenalår is what makes it a main dish fit for a celebratory meal. Or any Saturday afternoon.
UPDATE: There's been some discussion that this rømmegrøt is too thick, and should be runnier. Since the two commenters to suggest this are both Norwegian, I think we can trust them. So if you want something closer to the authentic version, I'd suggest thinning it out further with extra milk.
Sour Cream Porridge or Rømmegrøt
From Arne Brimi and Ardis Kaspersen's Norwegian National Recipes, with extra instructions from me
4 cups sour cream
1 1/2 cups milk, or more if needed
5 tablespoons semolina flour
2 cups flour
Sugar, cinnamon and raisins for serving
Slices of fenalår, for serving
Boil the sour cream over medium heat for 3 minutes in a covered pan. Whisk in half the regular four and stir vigorously to avoid lumps. Simmer, uncovered, for 5-10 minutes. At this point you can skim off any fat that's released to the top. In the meantime, whisk the egg into the other half of the regular flour. Add the egg mixture, along with the semolina and milk into the porridge. You'll probably need to switch to the wooden spoon at this point. But stir like you mean it so it doesn't become lumpy. Continue simmering and skim again if you need to. You can add more milk to thin it out a little. Serve with a sprinkling of sugar, cinnamon and raisins and a side of fenalår.