The spice of the moment: Caraway lends Nordic flavor to baked eggs

Photo: Maria Stordahl Nelson
Caraway and dill are some of the most distinct savory flavors in Nordic food. A prominent spice in aquavit and flavoring some Scandinavian cheeses, caraway is a natural pairing for the Jarlsberg in this satisfying egg dish. Vibrant fresh dill adds a decidedly spring touch that’s pleasing to both the eyes and the palate.

Maria Stordahl Nelson
Seattle, Wash.

One of my favorite things about Nordic cuisine is its restrained and elegant use of spices and aromatic herbs, particularly cardamom, caraway, and dill. Never heavy handed, always complementary to other ingredients, these flavor-enhancers bring just the right amount of complexity to the dishes they inhabit.

I’m discovering lately that caraway is the darling of the moment in my kitchen. It’s finding its way into vegetable dishes with regularity, and recently I found it adds fantastic flavor to batches of my homemade crackers and savory biscuits. Most routinely we add it to cabbage dishes, but really its unique and sometimes astringent flavor lends itself well to many other foods. Combined with fresh, coarsely ground peppercorns and salt, it also makes an excellent rub for beef roasts and pork tenderloin. I have very fond memories of my grandmother throwing a bit of caraway into our sauerkraut on occasion, and now I cannot eat it any other way. Lessons learned in childhood have significant staying power when it comes to food.

Caraway’s mild anise flavor is just so complementary to so many dishes, and the Scandinavian proclivity toward licorice and anise makes its addition to a whole spectrum of Nordic recipes a foregone conclusion. Whether I’m sipping icy spiced aquavit, experiencing the wafting aromas of cold shrimp boiled in a spiced caraway broth, or inhaling the tingly and toasty aromas of caraway bread as it comes fresh and hot from the oven, I never seem to get enough it.

Each spring my menu begins to include more egg dishes, and while I’m always on the lookout to add a few new variations to my repertoire, this year I’ve decided to revamp an old favorite. Baked eggs are nothing new, recipes for them abound, but recently I decided to change my standard recipe a bit by giving it a Nordic makeover. A generous dash of caraway and a good smattering of Jarlsberg cheese transforms this dish into something quite amazing and thankfully quite simple to prepare. This works particularly well as part of a larger brunch menu (we like ours served with thick bacon and buttery toast) and can even be assembled the night before.

Photo: Maria Stordahl Nelson

Creamy Jarlsberg & Caraway Baked Eggs
2 tbsps. olive oil or butter
1 large onion, diced
2 tsps. caraway seeds
salt and pepper
1 lb. fresh spinach
1 1/2 cups grated Jarlsberg cheese
1/4 cup heavy cream
6 whole eggs
Fresh dill, chopped

Generously butter 6 ramekin dishes and set aside. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large saucepan with a lid, heat the olive oil and add the onion. Sauté until the onion begins to caramelize slightly, about 10 minutes over medium-low heat. Add the caraway and salt and pepper to taste. Cook 3-4 additional minutes, or until the caraway begins to get toasty and release its aromas. Add the spinach and cover for 2-3 minutes. Allow the spinach to wilt completely, then stir and combine it thoroughly with the onions. Sprinkle the cheese over the top and mix until fully incorporated.

Evenly distribute the spinach mixture amongst the ramekins, then crack eggs on top. Lightly drizzle the cream over the eggs and place the ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the egg whites are completely set and the yolk is still a bit runny. Remove from the oven and garnish with dill and some additional cheese if desired.

Serves 6.

Maria Stordahl Nelson is a Seattle-area food writer, photographer, and recipe developer. She shares her love of all things sweet, savory, and sometimes Nordic at www.pinkpatisserie.net.

This article originally appeared in the March 10, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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