Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Swedish Smorgasbord

The Scandinavian country of Sweden is known for their history of Vikings, IKEA, Volvo, and traditional smorgasbord feast. The latter aspect is what I focused on as I planned my family's Swedish dinner. I was inspired to make a smorgasbord when we ate in Norway at Disney World. I did some research into it, found that smorgasbords originated in Sweden, and went from there. Since there are only six of us, I could not go all out and do every dish a traditional smorgasbord might contain. I did try to stick to the "musts", and I hope I hit authenticity as close as I could.


One thing I found interesting about smorgasbords is that they are not free-for-alls like the buffets you find here in the United States. There is a set manner in which you have to partake in the dishes. At least three different plates are used, and partakers have to come up for certain courses one at a time, getting a new plate each round. First comes the fish. Next are cold cuts, cheese, breads, salads, and egg dishes. The hot plates (often including a potato dish and meatballs) follow. Finally, fruits and desserts are served last.


Herring is a popular fish choice in Sweden, so I went with a canned variety of peppered herring. It completely disgusted my family. They would not even look at it. My mom finally was brave enough to try a piece, and she said that it was not too bad. I, on the other hand, ate the whole can. I cannot explain why I hate fresh fish, yet I loved this canned fish. Everyone was shocked.


The cold cuts, cheeses, and breads were very nicely arranged if I can say so myself. There was ham, assorted cheeses, and four types of breads/ crackers.

Rye is generally the bread of choice in Sweden, so I bought some little cubes of rye bread. I have to say that they were super dry and rather unappealing. I should have gone for a loaf of rye bread. It was funny to see the expressions on everyone's faces when they sampled the bread. My dad said he'd prefer dog excrement.
Thankfully, I put out some white and wheat bread for the sandwiches along with the rye. Crisp breads like Wasa are commonly served in Sweden along with the bread, but no one at my house likes Wasa. I saved some money and used crackers we already had for the cheese.
Speaking of cheese, doesn't this platter make you drool? I searched high and low for some Swedish cheese, but had to go with Jarlsberg from neighboring Norway. Norway and Sweden share many similarities with their cheeses, so it was a good substitution. Provolone and a goat brie were the other cheeses featured.
The "hot" section was what involved the two hours spent in the kitchen. Swedish meatballs and Jansson's Temptation were the two dishes I made. I'm listing the recipes using their Swedish name because it sounds more authentic. :)
These creamy potatoes are often made with anchovies, but I made an educated decision to leave them out for my picky family. We had a similar dish for breakfast in Norway at Disney, but everyone said mine were a lot better. Be careful, though, it's not called Jansson's temptation for no reason. These potatoes are not diet friendly.

Jansson's Frestelse
5 potatoes, peeled
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup half and half
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp butter or oil
15 anchovies (optional)
¼ cup bread crumbs
2 tbsp butter, cut into small chunks
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees and butter a large baking dish. Heat 1 tablespoon of butter or oil over medium heat in a small pan. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Set aside while you prepare the potatoes. Cut the potatoes into small matchsticks, placing the cut potatoes into a bowl of water. Layer 1/3 of the potatoes on the bottom of the baking dish. Top with half the anchovies (if using) and half the onions. Season with salt and pepper. Add another 1/3 of the potatoes followed by the remaining anchovies and onions. Season again and evenly spread out the remaining potatoes. Pour in the cream and half and half. Sprinkle the butter and breadcrumbs evenly over top. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are golden brown and most of the liquid has been absorbed.


Sweden is known for its meatballs. Unlike their Italian cousins, there is no cheese or garlic in them. (My dad was happy about this.) They are often served with a white cream sauce (also cheese and garlic free) and lingon berry jam. A good tip is to keep the meatballs small so they cook properly. I used about 2 tablespoons per meatball at first, and they would not cook all the way through. I recommend only using 1 tablespoon to make meatballs no more than 1" thick.


This was our first try of lingon berry jam. I was very disappointed to have spent my own good $6 for this stuff. Everyone agreed that it has an interesting flavor that is just a bit off. Be wary and eat with caution. The Swedes like to serve this spread on their meatballs along with the creamy sauce. An odd combination if you ask me, but to each his own.


For the meatballs:
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp oil
1 ½ lb ground beef
¾ lb ground pork
dash of allspice
1/3 cup half and half
½ cup breadcrumbs
1 egg, lightly beaten
salt and pepper, to taste
oil for cooking, as needed

To make the meatballs, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a small pan. Add the onions and cook until golden, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, mix the breadcrumbs and half and half together. Combine all the ingredients into a large bowl, seasoning to taste. Mix until just combined, being careful not to over handle the meat. Take about 1 tablespoon of the mixture at a time and form it into a ball. Repeat with all of the meat. Cover the bottom of a large saucepan with oil (about 3 tablespoons). Cook about 10 meatballs at a time, stirring to brown all the sides. Once they are done in the center, remove them with a slotted spoon and drain onto a towel. Serve with the béchamel sauce.


For the sauce:
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
¾ cup chicken broth
2/3 cup half and half
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat a saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter. Once it melts, quickly whisk in the flour, stirring constantly. Once there are no more lumps, stir in the chicken broth. Stir constantly until the sauce thickens. Add in the half and half, and cook for a few more minutes, or until the sauce sticks to the back of your spoon. Serve over the meatballs.

Overall, everyone found something on the Smorgasbord that they liked. Everyone except for me liked the meatballs, Sydney and mom liked the potatoes, Dad enjoyed a sandwich, and I found a new love for canned fish. (Just admitting that makes me cringe.) One thing we learned while eating Sweden is to not be shy. You might discover something new that you love or have a few laughs at the faces of your family when they take a bite of something not suited to their tastes. 

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