Friday, January 6, 2012
I think it's relatively well-known around here that I enjoy my Norwegian cooking. Most of my recipes come from hounding R's family for dishes they've been making at least since his childhood, family recipes generally being the best. So when the Wisconsin Historical Society asked if I'd like to take a peak inside the kitchen of another Norwegian-American family via their new book Gudrun's Kitchen, I of course said yes.
I've always teased R about the tendency of Norwegian immigrants from the mid 19th to the early 20th century to leave behind their Nordic home only to settle in the coldest part of the mainland United States. In fact, according to the book, Norway lost a larger percentage of its population to the US than any other country except Ireland during the hundred-year span from 1820 to 1920. The book documents the history of one such family, beginning with the childhood and subsequent immigration of Gudrun herself, whose recipes and life are documented by her children and grandchildren.
Coupled with photos of the family, the first section of the book recounts stories of the Norwegian immigrant experience in the early- to mid-20th century, as one family member after another settled in North Dakota, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin and even Brooklyn, New York. Food became a fundamental way for Gudrun to maintain ties with her homeland, and the matriarch of the Sandvold family's reputation as a cook was well-established.
Most cooks would agree that the most coveted belonging of a beloved grandmother has to be her recipe box and the memories her dishes evoke. In this first post on the book, I'm sharing a recipe for lapskaus, or Norwegian Beef Stew, which R says is just as good as his mother's (and we all know that's high praise from anyone living far from home). It's easy to make, filling, warm, and comforting on these cold, post-holiday winter nights. I fed four people with this recipe, with enough left over for a lunch for two the next day. I've also reproduced the recipe head-note below, since the reminiscences of family members is one of the things that makes the book a candidate for the bed-side table as well as the kitchen counter.
Lapskaus (Norwegian Beef Stew)
Reprinted with permission from Gudrun's Kitchen: Recipes From a Norwegian Family, by Ingeborg Hydle Baugh, Irene O. Sandvold, Edward O. Sandvold and Quinn E Sandvold, 2011. Wisconsin Historical Society Press.
Whenever my mother would cook lapskaus (and there are many ways to make it), my dad would exclaim that no one could make lapskaus like his sister Anna in Norway could. He longed to have that taste again.
Lapskaus can be made with fresh or leftover meat and potatoes. It can be like a stew or a hash. My dad liked it with a lot of gravy. (Indeed, sometimes I think his favorite part of the meal was a second helping of gravy, into which he'd break up flatbrød. He ate that mixture as if it was his dessert!) The last time I made lapskaus, our cousin Pål wa with us, and he said no, this was not the real lapskaus - the real lapskaus has every ingredient chopped in teeny tiny pieces. I guess everyone has his or her own favorite lapskaus. - Irene
1/4 cup butter of canola oil
2 pounds of boneless beef, diced in 1/4-inch or smaller cues
2 medium onions, diced
2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
6 medium potatoes, peeled and diced into 1-inch pieces
4 carrots, peeled and diced into 1-inch pieces
Heat butter or oil in a large pan, add the meat, and brown well on all sides. Add the onions, water, salt, pepper, ginger, sugar, and lemon juice. Cover and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook at least 30 minutes or until the meat is very tender. Add the potatoes and carrots and cook until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes longer.