Winter is coming: prepare food to nourish

Make some traditional Norwegian beef stew sosekjøtt for the dinner table and freezer

Photo: Christy Olsen Field
Sosekjøtt stores even better than most beef stews because the vegetables are added later.

Christy Olsen Field
Edmonds, Wash.

It’s still summer for a couple more weeks, but I am in full-on preservation mode these days. The chest freezer is filled with peach slices and berries and cherry tomatoes, and the pantry is stocked with growing rows of jams and tomato sauce.

And though I’m not usually one who has foresight to freeze dinners for later, I have a good reason now: Our second child is due in late September, and I want to have a supply of freezer meals to rely on when we’re running low on time and inspiration.

To me, a good freezer meal in those early newborn months is 1) full of protein and iron, 2) not cheese-centric, and 3) able to be eaten with one hand, preferably a spoon.

I found my ideal dish in sosekjøtt, also known as kjøtt i mørke or småsteik. Norway’s favorite chef Ingrid Espelid Hovig called it one of her favorite dishes, and it’s not hard to see why. This simple, deeply flavorful beef stew is like a hug from Norway: cozy, nutritious, and loved by all ages. Cubes of beef are simmered with onions in a roux-thickened brown sauce and served with potatoes and vegetables on the side. No wine, no spices beyond a bay leaf. I read through a couple versions that included mushrooms, and I included them in mine to add some extra savory notes and texture.

Sosekjøtt is a great dish to make on a weekend: It takes a few hours to make, but most of it is hands-off. And because it takes about as much effort to make a double batch, freeze half of it for later. Come January, you’ll be glad you did.

Photo: Christy Olsen Field
Sosekjøtt stores even better than most beef stews because the vegetables are added later.

Sosekjøtt
4 tbsps. butter
4 tbsps. flour
6 cups beef or mushroom stock, warmed
2 tbsps. olive oil or butter, more as needed
5 lbs. beef round roast, cubed
2 leeks or one large onion, thinly sliced
1 lb. crimini mushrooms, cleaned & quartered (can be omitted)
1 bay leaf
handful of parsley or chives to garnish
salt & pepper to taste

The day before you start cooking (or at least two hours before), cube the meat and generously salt on all sides. Don’t skip this step, as it will season the meat from the inside. Remove from the fridge about 20-30 minutes before searing.

Prepare the brunsaus (brown sauce poaching liquid). In a medium saucepan, melt the butter until foaming subsides. Add the flour and whisk constantly until it turns deep golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Whisk in a little stock, about ½ cup. The mixture will look lumpy and curdled, but keep going. Add the stock in gradually, whisking constantly as you go. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer for 15 minutes to thicken into a lovely brown sauce. Remove from heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, get out a heavy-bottomed 5-quart pot (I use my trusty cast iron Dutch oven) and heat olive oil or butter over medium-high heat. Brown the beef chunks, making sure to get a deep brown sear on both sides. Do this in batches so you don’t overcrowd the pan, and place seared pieces in a big bowl. Repeat until all beef is seared.

If you have extra grease in the bottom of the pot, pour off until you have about 2 tablespoons left in the pot. Turn down the heat to medium, sauté the leeks until brown, about 5 minutes, and add to bowl.

Add more oil/butter if the pot looks dry and sauté the mushrooms. (Don’t add salt for the first few minutes, as the mushrooms will shed their water too quickly.) After they have started to take on color, add a healthy pinch or two of kosher salt and stir the mushrooms as they release their liquid. Use this liquid to scrape up the fond, those tasty brown bits in the bottom of the pot. (If you omit the mushrooms, use about ½ cup water or stock to release the fond.)

Add beef, leeks, and brunsaus to the pot and stir everything together. Cover, bring to boil, and reduce to simmer for 2 to 2 ½ hours, stirring every 15 to 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning at each point, and add more salt if needed. If your brunsaus looks watery at the 2-hour mark (like mine did), remove the lid so the sauce can concentrate for the last bit of cooking.

Garnish with chopped parsley or chives and serve with boiled potatoes (typically Norwegian), mashed potatoes, and vegetables such as carrots, peas, or cabbage.

Serves 8 (or two dinners, one to enjoy right away and one to freeze).

Note: Like all good things, the flavor of sosekjøtt will improve with a day of rest in the fridge, so you can make it a day before you plan to serve it. It also freezes beautifully since the vegetables are served on the side. God appetit!

Christy Olsen Field was on the editorial staff of the Norwegian American Weekly from 2008 to 2012, and the Taste of Norway page was her favorite section. Today, she is a freelance grantwriter for small to mid-size nonprofits with her business, Christy Ink. Learn more at www.christy.ink.

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 8, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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