Monday, May 17, 2010

Happy Syttende Mai!

In English, that translates to Happy 17th of May.   In Norwegian, it stands for  Norwegian Constitution, or Independence Day.  Since three out of four of my Grandparents came directly or indirectly from Norway, I thought we should celebrate!



Children's Parade in front of the Royal Palace in Oslo.

To me, an international celebration should include foods native to its country.  But let's face it.  Norway is not known for it's exotic cuisine.  Somewhere, however, I am certain that there is a Lutheran church up in northern Minnesota preparing for a big Lutefisk Dinner!  Yes, I still have an uncle that eats this lye-soaked fish!

One of the traditional Norwegian foods that my family does enjoy is lefse.  Lefse is a potato pancake that looks similar to a rather pale tortilla.  Unlike a tortilla, however, which can be made in a press, making the perfect lefse requires a high amount of skill and years of practice - which is why I've never attempted to make it.

Although lefse contains only a few simple ingredients (potatoes, flour, butter, milk/cream, salt and sugar), there may be as many versions of this recipe as there are bakers.  Many of the highly skilled lefse makers that I know keep their perfected recipe so secret, it is only passed down to a trusted kin upon death or retirement.  My aunt's mother, for example, was known across the entire Minneapolis/St. Paul area for her perfect, tender lefse.  My aunt continued the tradition using some secret brand of potato flakes.  My cousin, however, was banned from the kitchen on her mother's secret society lefse making days.  We didn't complain, we just ate it!



Since I have never actually made lefse, I borrowed some pictures to help explain the general process.  First, start with some peeled and boiled potatoes.  (Boil some extra and you're ready for dinner!)  Next, rice the potatoes and add the butter.  When the potatoes are cooled, add the other ingredients.  Knead it like bread and shape it into patties.




Using your special lefse rolling pin, roll out the patties as thinly as you can.  This is the tricky part.  You want the lefse to be delicate and paper thin, but you don't want it to tear!



Place your rolled-out lefse on your special lefse griddle and cook.  Flipping it is the hard part.


If you are a lefse master, you will end up with a perfect stack of thin, tender, melt-in-your mouth little bites of joy.  If not, you will have a pile of thick, cracked, tough frisbees.


Some people use lefse to make sandwiches or to wrap around a campfire bratwurst.  I think the only way to eat it is to simply spread it with butter and sugar and roll it up.




As I mentioned, I am not a lefse maker.  What we will be eating today is this:  My last package of Mrs. Olson's potato lefse which I shipped down from a regular grocery store up in Minnesota.  Will it be as good as my aunt's tender, flaky perfections?  Of course, not.  But eating butter and sugar on top of a simple carb will still bring me down that memory lane.






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