Sunday, November 15, 2015

Lefse (LEFF-suh) is a soft Norwegian flatbread. In my family, it was traditional to make huge batches of lefse in mid-November, just before Thanksgiving. Half would be frozen, but trust me -- it barely made it past Christmas. It's considered a mid-winter treat, and as a kid I loved loved loved loved it!!

Lefse is made with boiled and peeled potatoes, a little flour, butter, and either milk or cream. The ingredients are combined into a kind of mash, and allowed to steep overnight. Tennis-ball sized orbs of the mash are then rolled out into a large disk using a special rolling pin that has grooves in it. (The grooves keep the lefse from sticking to the roller, and give the lefse a texture that allows it to cook evenly.)

The lefse is rolled out on a pastry cloth until it's just an eighth of an inch thick. Then it's transferred to a hot griddle, where it's allowed to cook on each side until brown patches appear. A long flat stick, called a "lefse stick", is used to lift the lefse from the cloth and transfer it to the griddle, and to turn it on the griddle so both sides cook. Once the lefse is done, which takes just a minute or two, the lefse stick is used to transfer the lefse to a towel. The lefse has to cool while covered with a moist towel. This allows the lefse to reabsorb some moisture, so it remains soft and pliable.

Making lefse is a family effort, usually requiring two or three people.

Lefse is usually eaten cold, or at room temperature. It can be refrigerated for up to two weeks, and frozen for up to three months.

The general way lefse is eaten is by slathering it with butter and then dusting it with sugar. You roll it up and CONSUME MASS QUANTITIES. Sometimes people use brown sugar, or dust it with a little cinnamon. Some people spread jelly or peanut butter on it, and in Norway people will sometimes spread gomme (a sweet cheese made by slow-boiling milk for a very long time) on it. It's not uncommon to see people fill lefse with ham and eggs to eat at breakfast, or with beef and mustard to eat as a sandwich. It's not unusual for small disks of lefse to be made, and then rolled around a sausage or hot dog (like pigs-in-a-blanket).

My grandfather used to eat lefse with red onion, sour cream, and rakfisk. Rakfisk is trout or char which is salted and put under pressure. This creates a brine, as moisture is drawn out of the fish. After brining for three or four months, the fish is soaked in water to remove the salt and rehydrate the flesh. As the fish has cooked because of the salt and brining, it's edible as-is.

There are other variations on lefse (like tykklefse, which is thick like cake), nordlandslefse (much sweeter and served in chunks), and anislefse (slightly thick lefse with aniseed rolled into it).

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