Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sverige Part II: Home Cooking

As mentioned in the last post, our trip to Sweden was not about eating out.  We ate in a lot, which worked out just fine.  And while we don't have pictures from any of the homecooked meals (or really any of the meals we ate over there), I think they're still worth memorializing here.

Some of the best food we had was on our trip to Isala, prepared for us by girlfriend's sister-in-law's mom, a native of southern Sweden now living in Falun, about a two and half hour train ride from Stockholm.  After meeting her in Falun, we took a 45 minute bus ride to the cabin pictured below.  It's an old goat barn--no electricity, no plumbing, and that covered area in the bottom left of the picture is the kitchen--not yet open for the season.  The S-I-L's mom provided the the food during this excursion, dividing the meals into a picnic, a dinner, and a lunch the following day.

Picnic:  Once we got to the cabin in Isala we had a hearty snack prior to making a poor attempt at fishing (halfway around the world and we were going for walleye--go figure) and taking a hike.  The meal consisted of wraps made with tuttulbak, a thin flat unleavened bread made of wheat and rye flours and potatoes, surrounding elk.  Half the wraps were seasoned with horseradish and the other half with mustard.  The elk was tjälknöl, meaning that it was cooked from frozen in a slow oven overnight and then marinated before being sliced for the wraps (see this link and use google translate for a good time and some background).  Really pleasant sandwiches, and unlike the typical wraps served in the States, the wrapper, tuttulbak, wasn't just neat and convenient, it was tasty and healthful and as much a part of the meal as the filling.  And, just because it was Sweden, there was also a huge hunk of very serviceable cheese.

Dinner:  After the picnic there was a bike ride into town, an unsuccessful fishing trip, and a hike filled with snacking on sorrel. But man cannot live on sorrel alone, so after the hike we were famished and it was time for dinner    Luckily our host was prepared for us striking out in the water, and had brought "reindeer pot" with her to be reheated in the cabin.

The reindeer pot was made with thin slices of reindeer (sliced while frozen)--think reindeer shawarma--cooked with onion, funnel chanterelles (brownish chanterelles that are picked in the fall and then dried), cream, bouillon, and juniper berries.  Served with a mashed mix of carrots, potatoes, and rutabaga and a side of rowanberry jelly.  Like the picnic, dinner was all about a sense of place.  Each dish could be recreated anywhere (or at least anywhere where there's access to reindeer and elk), but the context made the meal an experience. 

Lunch:  Our host didn't stop with the picnic and dinner.  The following day we returned to Falun for a city tour and more traditional cooking.  The four course lunch started with hard bread and cheese along with a Danish style live pate, then came cured salmon topped with small shrimp in a sour cream and dill sauce, then the entree: classic pea soup made with whole yellow peas (ärtsoppa) served with pea shoots (not very traditional) and both a sweet mustard (very Swedish) and a Dijon one (favored adaptation), and finally a rhubarb pie right from the oven with some ice cream.  All washed down with some local beer and a juniper soda that would please any grape soda loving American.

And that was it--back to Stockholm for the remainder of the trip.

Luckilly, there was one more wild meal wating for us when we got back to the city.  The S-I-L's father, not to be forgotten about, had dropped off a tjälknöl of his own.  More elk, again with a chanterelle cream sauce!  They just don't fuck around over there.

One last traditional food food we had at home in Stockholm was a delicious combination that started with a slice of fried potato onto which was added some sour cream, a generous scoop of gloriously orange bleak roe, some chopped shallots, and a sprig of dill.  I'm not sure what that dish was called, but it was like Sweden in one (or two) bites.

Next and final Sweden post will cover eating out, which, despite the above, we did a fair amount.