February 8, 2018

Nordic winter dishes to co-opt

Adding flavors from different cultures to your menu can add interest and introduce your guests to new types of cuisine. When searching for the perfect addition, open your mind to some Nordic dishes.

Nordic countries, including Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland, have found a variety of ways to turn readily available ingredients, like fish and root vegetables, into flavorful dishes worth adding to your rotation. Here are three excellent options to consider:

Swedish pickled herring

Fish has historically been a staple in Nordic diets. Between the the Baltic Sea, Norwegian Sea, North Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia, Sweden and its neighbors are surrounded by frigid waters filled with herring, sharks, eel, sturgeon and more.

Picked herring is plated alongside potatoes, deviled eggs and crackers.Pickled herring served alongside potatoes make a perfectly simple but flavor-packed appetizer.

This pickled herring recipe from Genius Kitchen is an appetizer you’ll find in many Scandinavian households:

Soak your salt herring fillets in cold water for 12 to 24 hours in the refrigerator, making sure to change the water twice to maintain freshness.

In a saucepan, mix white vinegar, garlic, a bay leaf, black peppercorns, whole allspice, dill seed and sugar, then bring to a boil. Once the sugar is dissolved, turn off the heat and let cool. Meanwhile, remove the fish, pat dry and cut into one-inch pieces. Remove all the bones.

Slice a red onion into rings. Layer onion rings and slices of herring in a jar, then pour in the vinegar solution, completely submerging all fish and onions. Cap and refrigerate for three days before eating.

EatingWell suggests pairing pickled herring with steamed potatoes and dill:

Steam new red potatoes over boiling water for 15 to 20 minutes until just tender. Slice the potatoes into rounds about ¼ inch thick, and sprinkle with salt. Top with pickled herring, sour cream, chopped raw red onion and a sprig of dill.

Danish rugbrød

Rye bread is a common carb found aside many Nordic dishes. It begins with a sourdough starter, which takes five days to ripen. However, once the starter is healthy and active, starting with the bread is as simple as any yeast-started bread. Once you have the starter ready, you’re ready to begin your rugbrød. Nordic Food & Living instructed:

Mix cracked rye seeds, cracked wheat, flax seeds and/or linseeds, sunflower seeds, your starter and water in a large bowl, and let sit for eight hours. Then, add all-purpose and rye flours, salt, malt syrup and gravy browning, if desired. Let rise for one to two hours.

Divide the dough in half and place into bread pans. Cover and let rise for another one to two hours, or until the pans are full. Bake at 360 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour, then remove the loaves from the pans to cool.

Ukrainian borscht

Though technically not from a “Nordic” country, beetroot soup, or borscht, comes from the nearby Slavic region and goes well with the above rugbrød. This bright soup is sweet, courtesy of its base in beets, but offset by tangy ingredients like kvass, or a light beer or another fermented ingredient. In this borscht recipe from Epicurious, ginger adds a zingy counterbalance to the saccharine beets:

Saute onion in oil in a large pot over medium heat. When the onions are clear, add garlic and ginger, then cook for about five minutes. Keep stirring to ensure even heating. Add beets, four cups of your favorite stock (vegetable or mushroom are typically best). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer until the beets are thoroughly cooked through. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup, adding more stock if it’s too thick. Stir in milk or coconut milk, salt and pepper, then garnish with parsley, beets julienne and serve alongside rye bread.