Would a hot dog by any other name taste so sweet? Well in Norway, they're conveniently disguised as "pølser," the general word for sausage. Since they're European you might be fooled into thinking they taste better than the American sausages we know and love (even if they are made of pig butts). BUT you would be wrong. They are exactly the same!
And they're omnipresent in Scandinavia. Don't ask me why, they just are.
In a way, it's quite homey. Walk into any 7-11 (yes, they have 7-11 here!) and you'll find an assortment of hot dogs rolling on the grill, just like in the states.
But here, hot dogs are even more versatile. Bargain-hunting at a loppemarked (literally, flea market)? You'll find pølser for sale there, too, along with delicious Norwegian waffels. Say you'd like to see the sights at Vigelandsparken. In the grassy areas surrounding the sculptures and rose gardens, you're liable to find groups of people huddled around an engangsgrill (literally, one time's grill, a charcoal-filled foil contraption designed to use once and throw away). And what are those pink logs lined up neatly over the flame? You guessed it! Pølser!
And of course, when you go camping, you bring pølser to grill over a campfire. The hot dog in the glamour shots is one such pølse, hot off the stick. I followed it up with toasted marshmallows, to round out the nutrition profile of my meal.
One different thing about hot dog consumption in Scandinavia is that the wieners are often enrobed not in a fluffy wheat bun, but rather a tortilla-like flatbread called lompe. It's made of potato flour, it's bland, and honestly I like buns better. But when in Rome.... (For the record, you can get buns here, it's just that lomper are more common.)
So here's how it's done: after grilling your pølse, lay it smack in the middle of your lompe, and slather in ketchup and mustard. (Or whatever else you like--in Scandinavia, hot dog toppings run the gamut from ordinary to...just weird. Shrimp salad atop a hot dog? No thanks.)
Next, just roll her up. Very portable, and poses less mess risk than a messy hot dog wedged inside a bun.
And of course, consume!
I also have the luxury of no class or work on Mondays this semester, so I can do that. It's nice, but let me tell you, I don't really accomplish anything. Besides cooking lots, that is. I spent all of Saturday baking two kinds of bread (whole wheat and ciabatta). When I say that I mean I spent the day lounging around waiting on the dough to rise. Maybe I should have fit some homework in there...I've always been more of a grasshopper than an ant, though, what can I say?
When you bake bread you can do decadent breakfasty things like THIS (well, you can also buy the bread, but it's just not as satisfying).
Mmmm. But I really wanted to tell you about my omelet, a dairy-stuffed number with sour cream and cheese, plus fresh tomatoes and sauteed onions and garlic. This is my favorite omelet filling to date. I think it would only be made better by a generous chiffonade of homegrown basil.
Ingredients (to make one omelet):
Splash of water or milk
Some onion and garlic sauteed in butter (boyfriend conveniently made enough for the both of us before I even made it to the kitchen this morning)
Mild white meltable cheese (I used Jarlsberg, a Norwegian Emmental-style)
Generous spoonful of sour cream
A few cherry tomatoes cut into wedges
Salt & pepper to taste
Whisk eggs together with the water or milk. Salt now, or not, depending on your preference (salt makes the eggs set firmer, so if you like your eggs more tender, wait until the egg is cooked). Pour egg mixture into skillet still hot and greasy from sauteing onions (have heat reduced to medium low). Cook the omelet however you like. (For me, flipping the damn thing is usually too risky, so I just cook it slowly on one side until all of the egg has set.)
Give it a good grind of pepper at this point (and salt if you haven't already). Position the cheese down the midline of the omelet (know what I mean?) to melt along with the onion/garlic mixture. Take off the heat and smear the spoonful of sour cream along the rest of the filling and scatter the tomatoes over all. Fold (I do my omelets in thirds, and then flop it in half hamburger-style).
Eat! Preferably with toast smeared with butter and honey. And breakfast beverage of your choice.
That's right. I'm a sad sack. A whiner and a complainer. Even an ingrate. And this is a post about depression-induced brownie baking. While I should be having the gosh darn time of my life expanding my horizons in a foreign country, I'm not, to put it simply. Instead I bitch and moan silently to myself and tear up to Fleetwood Mac songs. And eat brownies. Ridiculous. But what can I say, I'm really really homesick.
(And I happened to spend all of last winter with my pals listening exclusively to Rumours and Tusk while hanging out in a fort. Well...a ping pong table covered in blankets and carpeted with pillows. Naturally! There was a lot of drinking involved and not a lot of class attendance. Ah, youth!! And thus, I weep when I hear Lindsey Buckingham sing "Second Hand News.")
To top it off, my darling boyfriend Dan (and de facto sous-chef) is gone this week for some wack-ass trip to a biology field station somewhere north of the city. Pout.
But us cookin' types always know how to make ourselves feel better, right? At least gastronomically? That's where yesterday's grocery trip came in. I had been moping all day, so when four PM rolled around I felt like I should at least make an effort to act more human and less lump. So I strolled down to the supermarket for a baking supplies spree!!
Well, wouldn't you know, the results of said baking did not quite cure my homesickness...but the brownies did make it a lot more palatable. I like to think of them as a form of culinary palliative care. I nibbled them as I wasted away in my bed, humming "Take Me Back to Tulsa" while daydreaming of all things American. Aimless summer car rides and sloppy Braum's cheeseburgers come to mind, and are probably making me more pitifully misty-eyed than I should admit. Maybe only chewy chocolate confections can keep me from going over the edge into soppy oblivion.
Just checking, does anyone actually feel worse after consuming delicious chocolate desserts? I didn't think so. OK, I confess, I did feel a little digestively disgruntled after stuffing one too many of these babies in my face. But psychologically? I was uplifted.
But I digress. These brownies are the epitome of rich chocolatey-ness (read: you will need some milk). They are dense, dark and chewy with a crunchy crust. They have the ever so slightly sophisicated (for brownies, anyway) tang of dark chocolate tempered with just the right amount of sugar. Not much else comes to mind as far as description goes. Oh, wait, except mmmmm.
powder. You know? Maybe I'm nuts to think that, but I'm a believer now. Even without chocolate, this recipe probably has enough butter and sugar to make powdered cement reasonably tasty. Just close your eyes when you put it in the mixing bowl and I swear it will not end up on your ass.
That was a lie.
Well, I guess I'd better tell you how to do it already. The sooner you make, these the sooner you can begin working through the caloric guilt.
Best Cocoa Brownies (found on Epicurious)
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cold large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)
Special equipment: An 8-inch square baking pan
Notes: I didn't follow the online recipe's advice to use "the best cocoa you know." I used the only cocoa available in the Norwegian supermarket. I also subbed the vanilla extract for 2 teaspoons the inexplicably powdery "vanilje sukker," reducing the flour accordingly. I have no nuts (ha). Lastly, my ill-equipped kitchen (so characteristic of temporary apartments) doesn't contain a square baking pan, so I used a sort of strange round pot...whatever works, man!
The method (as translated and slightly tweaked by me)
1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F. Butter baking vessel. Then flour it. (Or if you're fancy/OCD, use more cocoa instead of flour.)
2. Combine butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in saucepan and double boil (I just ended up mixing the batter in the saucepan, worked fine). Stir occasionally and try to get it to be nice, shiny and smooth. It should not get very hot. I couldn't really get my mixture that smooth, as the biggish sugar crystals were not about to dissolve, but it didn't seem to matter. Let cool on the counter for a bit.
3. Stir in the vanilla now (or if you use vanilla sugar, add with the flour).
4. Add the eggs one by one, stirring really well after each addition. The batter will get very thick!
Really thick! Don't you want to put your tongue on it?
5. When it looks super smooth and shiny (like you just want to get a spoon and dig in), add the flour and stir gently until combined. Then give it 40 hard licks with the spoon/spatula. Don't forget the nuts if you have 'em.
6. Spread into the pan. (If you did things like I did, you will literally be spackling it in there. Your batter will be SO THICK AND STIFF. This may be because I never measure things super accurately.)
Just scrape it on in there as best you can. Or leave some behind to taste while it bakes.
"The other black gold," as it's known in oil rich parts of the world such as Tulsa and Norway.
(7. Lick and scrape as much of the batter off of the spoon and bowl as you possibly can.)
8. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick to the middle comes out only a bit moist. This way the brownies will be somewhat gooey in the middle. If that squicks you, bake until the toothpick comes out clean.
9. Begin therapy as soon as the brownies cool a bit.
Most things are better with a little goo in the middle. Don't you think?
I could really go for something sweet. I was thinking maybe some kind of butternut squash blondie (as weird as that sounds) but then I realized that I had actually roasted the whole butternut squash last night and did not have half left, as I had thought. Sad, as I had already pored over various recipes and had adapted a few to my own ends.
So what do I do? I will have to come up with a new bizarre concoction. How about moist banana cake with chocolate chunks? And maybe a caramel swirl topping? I just made some caramel sauce the other day and it was unbelievable. But now I don't have any cream so I will have to see if I can wing it with just milk. Could be a bad idea...we'll find out.
Later on, in the lab, Danielle brews herself a cup of jasmine tea and sets to work.
Dense Chocolate Chip Banana Cake
5 tbsp (65 grams) butter, melted
3/4 cup white sugar
1 smashed banana
2 tbsp yogurt
2 tbsp sour cream
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
50 grams semisweet chocolate, chunked up
Salted caramel (see below)
1. Whisk together first three ingredients.
2. Mix in the next three.
3. Gently mix in the next four.
4. Fold in the penultimate one.
5. Swirl the last ingredient on top (Don't use all of it like I did, save some for ice cream and save your cake from having pools of gooey caramel on top...unless you're into that. On second thought, I am into that.)
6. Bake at 350F/180C for about 25 minutes until the cake stops looking molten. It will still be moist looking, but when you let it set out for a little bit after taking it out, it'll be just perfect.
(This is a roughshod, approximate recipe because I have a phobia of following directions or making set plans, so I just threw things in the pot to see what would happen. Good strategy!)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp water
a generous dash of salt
chunky tablespoonish nob of butter
splash or two of milk
1. Heat sugar, water and salt in a saucepan on medium high heat (but don't stir!) until caramelized to a medium amber color.
2. Take off heat briefly and whisk butter into the sugar mixture (it will foam up).
3. Return to heat and let it bubble away a bit more until the color starts deepening a bit (whisking in the butter will give it a slightly paler color).
4. Take off the heat again and whisk in a hefty splash of milk. The coolness of the milk will make it hard to dissolve, so turn down the heat and return the pan to burner. You may want to repeat this step because it'll thicken when it cools and you don't want it too viscous.
Voila! Tastes really, really good, and I didn't even need heavy cream! So there! I knew my reckless tinkering would never do me wrong!
Hey what do you know? It came out pretty good! I wanted something very dense and moist, and this definitely delivered on that front. I think the amount of baking powder I added gave it just enough lift not to come out as a hot, melty sludge.
The salty caramel swirled on top was TASTAY. This is definitely one of those recipes where each bite is different--some with a little more ooey-gooey caramel than others, some with an unexpected banana chunk or a concentration of melted chocolate.
And at the edge of the cake, where the caramel dripped off and smeared itself onto the edge of the pan, it got nice and dark brown and chewy. At least chewy when it was still warm. I have a feeling it's in my kitchen as we speak cementing itself on the pan permanently. But is that not the price we have to pay for warm chewy goodness in the here and now?
So! I declare this recipe a success! I think this cake would potentially be even better with something other than banana, though it definitely tasted good. Maybe with raspberries? I don't know, any ideas?
Sure, I could've walked one and a half minutes to the little grocery store in my apartment complex to buy the ingredients for any damn fool recipe...but three things were stopping me. (A) pyjamas, (B) it's cold and rainy, and (C) I just didn't feel up to faking like I know Norwegian in the check-out line. Ah, social anxiety!
But isn't this the fun way to do things?? My mom always scolded me for my childhood experiments. Experiments in her makeup drawer, experiments in the medicine cabinet (toothpaste-perfume beauty creme, anyone?), experiments in the kitchen--and her all-time favorite, experiments in knot-tying. Yes, I, as a child, could not resist tying anything remotely resembling a shoelace into hundreds of indelibly tangled knots. Precious.
I guess my pioneering scientific attitude has never left me. At least Ma can't scold me now that I get better results. Like this one.
Knock yourself out experimenting, people. It can pay off. Now, after three (moderately-sized!) slices of cake, my sweet tooth is satisfied.