A Christmas dessert rich with heritage
Norwegian heritage, Christmas culinary traditions and family create the perfect holiday atmosphere
By Daytona Strong
A few simple touches are all it takes to create a meaningful tradition. That’s not to say, however, that all the work that went into celebrating Christmas in my family was simple. On the contrary, the countless cookies and lefse and decorations and extensive meals were the result of hours of effort and planning. The result, however—as contrasting as the back and front of a tapestry—felt simple, just how true hospitality always should.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately—as I plan my own Christmas celebrations this year—about the holiday meals my paternal grandparents would prepare year after year. Grandma Agny, who had a background in the hospitality industry, would set the table with rich, creamy-colored linens, with elaborately fanned napkins adorning each place setting. We’d sit down, each at our usual place, with my grandparents reserving the seats with the view of Puget Sound for my parents, and they would start passing the food. There would be the meats—pork roast and medisterkaker, to name a couple—accompanied by vivid orange steamed carrots and surkal dressed with bright green chopped parsley. We would sip Martinelli’s sparkling apple cider from goblets, as Grandpa Lauritz would offer us additional portions of each dish, no matter how much food we had already consumed or had remaining on our plates. Before the night was done, we would enjoy the final course: my grandmother’s rice cream, served with raspberry coulis drizzled on top.
There are details of the meals that I know I’m missing, and I’m sure that some things varied from year to year. But one of the things I love most about those memories is how my grandparents—who had moved to Seattle from Norway in the 1950s—kept their heritage alive and shared it with us every chance they got, including through the food they served. As I became an adult and started entertaining, virtually no meal ever looked the same as I obsessively collected recipe clippings and cookbooks and made copious lists of recipes I wanted to try. But as time goes on and I cook my way through some of the Scandinavian classics, I find myself starting to add these dishes to my culinary repertoire. If there’s one thing I learned from Grandma Agny, it’s that a meal is an expression of the cook and is a gift, in some way, of love. Food carries with it so many memories of special times gathered around a table with people who are dear to us, and each time I prepare certain dishes—such as medisterkaker, surkal, or rice cream—I’m able to savor the memories that come flooding back to me at the same time.
Rice Cream with Raspberry Sauce
2 cups water
1 cup rice (I used Arborio)
½ teaspoon salt
4 cups whole milk
1/2 sugar plus 1 tablespoon
¾ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 ounces frozen raspberries, thawed
Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add rice and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until water is absorbed and rice is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Gradually add milk—about a quarter cup at a time—stirring frequently, allowing the pudding to thicken a little before adding more. Add ½ cup sugar gradually, too. Be patient, since it takes a while for the rice to absorb the milk. When all the milk is added and the mixture has taken on a thick and creamy consistency, transfer to a bowl and chill completely.
To make the raspberry sauce, puree raspberries in a blender and stir in the remaining tablespoon of sugar.
Just before serving, whip the cream and add vanilla extract. Gently fold it into the rice. Divide the rice cream between bowls and serve with raspberry sauce.
Daytona Strong is the voice of Outside Oslo, a blog exploring her Norwegian heritage and love of great food. She is the newest contributor to the Norwegian American Weekly. Check out her blog at http://outsideoslo.wordpress.com.
This article originally appeared in the Dec. 14, 2012 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.