Cooking with cousins part 1, lefse


Last night my world fell apart. And thus so too did dinner. Just a bit.

My Very Tall Cousin’s Norwegian girlfriend had been home over Christmas and made lefse from scratch with her stepmother. Lefse, in Norway, is a traditional food and made, she said, really mainly at Christmas time. Most people buy theirs – often from old ladies who make them at home – but her stepmother thought she’d try it and was amazed as how easy (just time consuming) it was. She came back full of will to make lefse – and to teach me how to make it.

So on Sunday she and My Very Tall Cousin showed up, with lefse ingredients in hand. They came upstairs and she unpacked the ingredients on the kitchen counter: flour, milk, butter, and sugar.

Where are the potatoes? I asked.

What potatoes? she responded.

Isn’t lefse a potato bread?

(And here all you Minnesotans will want to hang onto your hats because your minds are about to be blown.)

No, lefse is just plain and you fill it with butter and sugar.

I thought it was a flat potato bread.

No, that’s potato lefse. Just lefse is plain, with butter and sugar.

And, according to Wikipedia, she is right about the food of her country. According to the stack of English-language Scandinavian cookbooks on my shelf, she is on crack. But these books were all written by Americans for Americans. In Minnesota you can buy lefse at plenty of grocery stores. It is always potato lefse. Always. I had literally never heard of lefse being anything else until last night.

Forge ahead. The dough is very cool – just 2 cups scalded milk, 1 stick melted butter, and 2.2 pounds of flour beaten until it holds together in a shiny mass. It’s soft and pliable but holds together and doesn’t stick.

Then came the extensive rolling –


The rolling actually takes both time and a fair amount of effort because you want it paper-thin. Really, what you want is to get it read-through thin –


Getting each lefse this thin is, as you might imagine, a total pain in the ass. The best combination for this feat was the much-used (and thus constantly well-oiled and seasoned) cutting board and the rolling pin with actual handles. Rolling on the almost-never-used-for-direct-food-contact side of the kitchen cart with the handle-less French-y style rolling pin was not so much fun. In a way, it’s easy to roll out. It has the consistency of playdough and doesn’t stick much, but it has a tendency to bunch up and fold onto itself if you’re not paying attention or you’re using the above-mentioned poor combination of location and pin. We all took turns, and drank beer or wine (or, in Ernest’s case, a rare treat of ginger ale), and made a good time of it as we rolled, cooked the lefse on a pancake griddle instead of an authentic lefse grill, and – and I believe this is quite different than with potato lefse – layered the lefses ain between damp kitchen towels to soften them. Once properly pliant, they were spread with a butter-sugar mixture, folded, and stacked – ready to freeze as you see at the top of this post.

Then it was time for dinner. I had defrosted a top sirloin roast from my meat CSA, salted and peppered it and let it sit in the fridge overnight. Then I just roasted it at 450 until a meat thermometer read 135, let it rest so the temp would go up to 145, sliced it and served with butter braised cabbage and celery salad. And no potato lefse.


The problem was that none of the three thermometers in my kitchen drawers were registering any temperatures at all – but I didn’t realize that for awhile, what with all the lefse rolling business at hand. The meat all got cooked to medium well, which was a shame. Luckily, I had made a horseradish whipped cream (whip some heavy cream until it thickens and soft peaks form, stir in freshly grated horseradish and salt to taste). It was delicious. Beyond delicious, actually. And, as My Very Tall Cousin pointed out, it was like putting Cool Whip on meat. In a good way.

After letting the cream melt like butter onto the steak, and enjoying the horseradish tang on the deeply savory and seasoned meat, we headed back to the kitchen, for more spreading and folding and to eat our fill of lefse. Or, as my dashing husband dubbed it, “sugar bread.”