Cooking Around the World Showcase -- Norway (Smørbrød)
Velkommen til Norge! I am so excited that we have finally reached the Norway Pavilion as we cook our way around the World Showcase! Yes, I know it's the second country you hit if you are working your way around clockwise, but I am excited nonetheless.
My family and I were privileged to actually visit this amazing place last summer. While Norway might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of a vacation spot, if you get the opportunity to go, GO! It is, quite literally, the most beautiful place on the planet. Although I plan to share many pictures, they just don't do the scenery justice. The majesty just can't be captured in a digital image. Plus, in addition to all this beauty, you will find a country filled with friendly people (most of whom speak English which is a boon for Americans), a rich and varied history and some really delicious food. We had arguably our very best family vacation ever in Norway. Add it to your bucket list. Now, on to the food.
As I researched Norwegian recipes with the help of my Norwegian friend, Jonas (@jonasaa99 on Instagram), I noticed that there were more recipes for bread and cake than there were for entrees! Jonas confirmed that the Norwegians are a big fan of bread and cake (another reason to love them!) and that meals consist largely of fish or meat and vegetables. So, that means meals are easy and I get to eat bread and cake this week. Awesome!
I did notice that we have a few obstacles to overcome in our Norwegian culinary journey. The first was a pretty easy hurdle to jump. The Norwegians use a lot of vanilla sugar in their baking. That's not something that's readily available in the US but, luckily, it's very easy to make. Simply put 2 cups of sugar in a resealable bag or container. Take a vanilla bean and split it lengthwise. Scrape out the gooey black seeds and put them in sugar. Then, throw the rest of the bean in their as well. Mix well and let it sit for a week so that the vanilla flavor infuses the sugar. Easy peasy! There is some infusing my cabinet right now.
The second bump in the road was a little harder to get over. The Norwegians use fresh yeast in their baking. Fresh yeast kinds of looks like tofu and is very different from the dried yeast that is widely used in America. Looking online, there are conversions for using dried yeast in place of fresh yeast, so we will be giving it a try. According to most sources, the results should be similar. Fingers crossed!
For our first foray into Norwegian cooking, Nik and I were looking for something quick and easy. We were both tired and just wanted to eat. Enter Smørbrød! It literally means sandwiches, but Smørbrød isn't just PB&J on white bread. These open-faced sandwiches are about using fresh, high-quality ingredients and lots of them. Shrimp, salmon and roast beef are all traditional choices so Nik and I decided to make Shrimp Smørrebrød and I'm really glad we did. With just a few minutes' preparation, we ended up with a delicious and truly hearty meal.
The key to Smørbrød is the bread. Squishy American bread will not work in these sandwiches. You need to find a dense, European-style bread that can hold up to all the stuff you are about to put on top of it. We found a German spring water bread (Dimpilmeier) that worked really well. We slathered each piece with butter, loaded on lettuce, shrimp and cucumber and then topped it with creme fraiche and dill. YUM! This was a surprisingly filling meal. Even "the endless eater" (as I think of my growing 13-year-old boy) couldn't finish both slices. We both agreed that these were delicious and far beyond just "sandwiches." If you are looking for an easy introduction to Norwegian food, give these a try!
Keep following us as we cook our way through Norway! We will be making bacon-wrapped cod, Bergen Easter chicken and School Bread. Yum!
See ya real soon!