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Norwegian Lamb in Cabbage Stew

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

This dish is called fårikål (fawr - ee - kawl) in Norwegian (å is pronounced like awe said in a New Jersey accent). Fårikål, which means lamb or more precisely, mutton, in cabbage, is the national dish of Norway. It is typically enjoyed in the fall months.

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Traditional Norwegian cuisine is simple, hearty, and filling. To sample traditional cuisine of any region, is to realize that people consumed what their land provided. Before technology developed to the extent that for instance, tomatoes, could be grown to mathematical precision any time of year in greenhouses, food was seasonal. People ate what was available at a particular time of year, which in the colder months in northern countries in was not much. Cabbage. Potatoes, carrots and other root vegetables. Mutton. Salt and pepper for spices.

As a result, fårikål is a simple, unassuming dish. It requires a total of four ingredients (five if you count tap water): lamb, cabbage, salt and pepper corns. It is made not to impress a gourmand's palate but to satisfy. To warm. And to cozy oneself in the colder, darker months. In Norwegian, the verb "å kose seg" literally means to cozy oneself, and can be used to express that moment when you snuggle under a warm fleece blanket in the evening, in front of a fireplace, perhaps with a cup of cocoa or a glass of gløgg (mulled wine), as the cold wind howls outside.

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Lamb should be on the bone. Cabbage is sliced into wedges, starting from the core, so that they are held together to prevent the cabbage from falling entirely apart as it stews. After placing all of the ingredients in a pot, the dish is cooked for two hours and requires little attention.

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One thing that nobody ever tells you in a recipe, is the cabbage can get quite stinky as it cooks. But the end result is worth it.

Fårikål, Norwegian Lamb in Cabbage Stew
(Serves 4-6)

You will need:
1 1/2 lb lamb stew meat on the bone (such as neck or shoulder), the more fat the better
1 1/2 to 2 lb head of cabbage
2 tbsp whole black pepper corns
1 tbsp salt
1-2 tbsp flour (optional)
Water

Directions:
1. Slice the meat into large chunks. Slice the cabbage head in half, then slice each half into six or so wedges or "boats," starting from the core, so that the leaves are held together. Place the meat and cabbage in a layered fashion in a large stew pot or a Dutch oven, starting with the meat (pieces with the most fat should go on the very bottom, fat side down). Sprinkle salt and pepper corns in-between each layer. As an option, if you prefer to have a thicker stew, sprinkle a bit of flour in-between each layer.

2. Fill the pot with water, until the meat and cabbage are almost covered. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Skim any foam that forms and reduce to a simmer, adjusting the lid to let some of the steam escape. Simmer for two hours. When the dish is ready, the meat should be falling off the bone. Serve in a shallow soup plate over boiled young or fingerling potatoes.

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Whole Wheat, Pecan & Chocolate Chip Cookies

Monday, November 7, 2011

Over the weekend, after a run, I suddenly had a sweet craving. But we had no sweets (made or bought). So I ran through what we had in the kitchen in my mind, to see if I could make something on the spot. Then I thought of cookies. I like chocolate chip cookies, but I don't like them to be overly sweet. I also realized we didn't have any all-purpose flour, but we had an entire bag of organic whole-wheat pastry flour.

I looked at the bag of whole-wheat pastry flour (Bob's Red Mill). There was a note on the bag that the flour, which is organic and stone ground, was absolutely perfect for cookies. I had never used it for cookies before, but Bob looked so reassuring on the picture on the package that I decided to give it a try.

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The results were sublime. I used bittersweet chocolate chips (60% cacao) and pecan nuts, and added just a dash of cinnamon and a bit extra salt to turn these chocolate chip cookies slightly less sweet, perhaps ever so slightly more sophisticated (or as sophisticated as chocolate chip cookies can get). The cookies came out a little thinner than when I use regular flour, but the taste was far superior. To quote my husband, these are "chocolate chip cookies for adults."

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Whole Wheat, Pecan & Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Makes about 2 dozen cookies)

You will need:
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter (1/2 cup), softened
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 large brown egg
3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecan nuts

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheet with foil.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. In a medium bowl, mix butter, vanilla, granulated sugar and brown sugar with an electric mixer until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and mix until well blended. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture, scraping the sides with a wooden spoon, and mix until combined. With a wooden spoon, fold in chocolate chips and pecan nuts.

3. Divide the cookie dough between the baking sheets to form two dozen cookie dough balls. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until a rich golden brown (the flour will make the cookies slightly darker than if made with all purpose flour). Remove from oven, let harden slightly, peel them off the foil and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
 

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