Recipes from Denmark


Thrift, thrift, Horatio! The funeral baked meats did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.

Yeah, that was the only food related quote I could find in Hamlet. In fact it might be the only food reference in the whole play. Why Hamlet? Because we're in Denmark of course! And Hamlet is the first thing I think about whenever someone mentions Denmark. Yes, that's what college did for me.

Anyway there will be no funeral baked meats in this week's meal. Our menu looks like this:


Now, this is actually the second version of my menu, because I originally chose a roast goose recipe. I've never had goose before and I really wanted to try it … then I got to Safeway and discovered that a small frozen goose goes for about 60 bucks. Err, OK. Back to the drawing board I guess.

First a little bit about our host nation:

Besides being the ancestral home of Hamlet, prince of the Danes, Denmark is also the place where the Vikings originated—which means of course that it has a long and noble history of bad-assery, extending even beyond crazy avunculicidal princes. Today's descendants of those noble bad-asses are the happiest people in the European Union (according to a 2007 Cambridge University study) and the second happiest people in the world (according to the World Database of Happiness). This might have something to do with the fact that Denmark has the lowest income inequality in the world and is also the world's most democratic and least corrupted nation. That's right, it is more democratic and less corrupted than the good ole US of A.



Some fun facts about Denmark: its flag is the oldest in the world, adopted in 1219 and still in use today. It has had 14 Nobel laureates, it is the home of the world's oldest operating amusement park (which first opened way back in the 16th century) and it is also the home of Lego, everyone's favorite building toy.

Amagertorv Square, Copenhagen Denmark. Photo Credit: Jim Nix / Nomadic Pursuits via Compfight cc

Now about the food. Shakespeare was on to something when he talked about meat in Denmark, because as far as Danish cuisine goes it is all about the meat. In fact at just under 322 lbs of meat per person per year, Danes eat more meat than anyone else in the entire world. This is actually quite surprising when you consider that obesity rates in Denmark are pretty low, especially compared to other European nations.

So here's what I finally chose, in place of the roast goose that I couldn't afford to cook:

Frikadeller (Danish Meatballs)


This recipe comes from Favorite Family Recipes, a blog run by sisters Erica, Emily, Elise and Echo Walker. This recipe was originally posted by Erica, whose husband once lived in Denmark. By the way, the Walker sisters just came out with a cookbook (also called Favorite Family Recipes), which you can purchase on Amazon.com.

Here's the recipe:

For the meatballs:
  • 3/4 lb ground beef
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 large onion, grated
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp dried sage
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup half and half or milk
  • Butter
For the gravy:
  • 3/4 - 2 tbsp drippings from the meatballs
  • Butter (if needed)
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup heavy cream or full fat milk
  • 1 tbsp powdered beef bouillon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
At Erica's suggestion I served this with the following two side dishes, though I used recipes I'd already sourced before finding Favorite Family Recipes.

This one comes from Christian's Danish Recipes:

Rødkål (Red Cabbage)

  • 1 medium red cabbage, finely shredded
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup vinegar, lemon juice or pickle juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup currant jelly (optional)
And from Danishnet.com:

Brunede Kartoffler (Caramelised Potatoes)
  • 20 oz small potatoes
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
And for dessert, also from Danishnet.com:

Æblekage (Danish Apple Pudding)
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts
  • 1 lb cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 3 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 egg white
Starting with the meatballs:


Mix the beef with the pork and the grated onion. Warning: grating onions is painful. Keep your kids out of the kitchen, unless you are mad at them.

Now add the the rest of the ingredients and mix gently with your hands until well-incorporated. (Note: I left out the sage. Martin can't stand it, and I've seen other frikadeller recipes that didn't call for it, so I felt like I could leave it out without killing the authenticity.)

Next, add the half and half but do it slowly. You may not need the full half cup. Unlike Italian meatballs, you want your mixture to be a little sticky. You won't actually be rolling these into balls so the texture should be wet.


Now melt the butter and drop the mixture by the tablespoon into the pan. Press down a little to flatten. Despite the name, you're not really making meatballs—they are really more like little hamburger patties.


Cook until nicely browned on one side, then flip and cook until the other side matches. Keep adding butter as necessary.


When the meatballs are finished, remove them to a plate and keep warm. Now add the flour to the pan (if there isn't a lot of oil left, you can add some more butter). Stir until you get a roux. Add the cream and whisk until you get a nice thick gravy. Finish with the beef bouillon, salt and pepper.

Now for the potatoes:

Make sure you get the smallest potatoes you can find. It's better to have bite-sized baby potatoes than bigger ones that you have to cut into pieces.

First boil the potatoes until they are just done. You want them to be firm, not mushy. Set them aside and let them cool a little. When they are cool enough to handle, pull the peels off with your fingers (they should come off pretty easily).


Now put the sugar and butter in a frying pan and heat slowly, stirring continuously until it melts and starts to turn golden. Then add the potatoes and keep stirring until the caramel sticks to the potatoes (five to 10 minutes).


The cabbage is pretty easy, too. Here's how it's done:


Melt the butter in a large pot and add all the rest of the ingredients. Cover and cook on low heat until the cabbage is tender (20 minutes or so). Remove from heat and stir in the jelly (if using). That's it!


Finally, the dessert. Now, I think there might be a million different ways to make Danish apple pudding. I took just one liberty with mine, and I based it on other recipes I've seen for this dessert. Here's how I did it:

Put the breadcrumbs in a pan with the sugar. Turn the heat on to low. Stirring continuously, cook until the mixture is a dark gold color.

 
Transfer to a bowl and set aside. In the same pot, add the hazelnuts and stir until they start to turn a light brown color. They should become fragrant. Now remove them from the heat and set aside.

Mix the apples with the honey,  lemon zest and juice. Transfer to a pan and cook on low heat until the apples are soft. Now smash them up with a potato masher until you get applesauce.


Now the recipe says to beat the egg white with the sugar until stiff. I feel uncomfortable giving my kids raw egg white, so I just left it out. If I'd had time, I would have beaten some cream and sugar and used that (I've seen other Danish apple pudding recipes that use cream), but instead I just folded in the sugar and added a little bit of cream to the layers.

OK now divide half of the apples between four small bowls (or use glasses, like I did, which will make for a nicer presentation). Now divide half of the breadcrumbs between the bowls/glasses, and then repeat. Top with the nuts.


And now for the verdict:

This was a nice, hearty meal that was good for a cold night. The meatballs were very similar to Swedish meatballs (I think the pork might be the primary difference) and they tasted great with the gravy, which was quite basic but suited them very well. Martin and I liked the cabbage, though it was a little overwhelming (as that sort of sauerkraut-ish kind of dish usually is). The kids were horrified by it, even Dylan who claims to like sauerkraut. I loved the potatoes, but you know, caramelized sugar + potatoes = what's not to love? The kids liked them too, once they got over the initial shock of eating sugary potatoes.

So yeah, probably not the meal that Hamlet's doomed mother ate at her wedding feast, but tasty. Have you ever eaten Danish meatballs? What did you think?

Next week: The Democratic Republic of the Congo

For printable versions of this week's recipes:



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