Typisk norsk fare: Cozy kål and bacon

Wilted cabbage and bacon in a white bowl with a sprig of dill on top.

Photo: Daytona Strong
Cabbage, a hardy cold-weather staple, is a perfect backdrop for salty bacon and flavorful dill.

Daytona Strong
Taste of Norway Editor

The book smells of old cabin wood, dusty, stale, with a hint of cedar. Printed in the 1960s, it’s vintage, in pristine condition apart from the torn corners of the jacket. Flipping through the unmarked, thick creamy pages and the still-crisp yet rustic deckle edge, I can’t help but wonder if had been forgotten on a bookshelf decades ago.

I love old cookbooks and have collected many Scandinavian ones throughout the years. They offer clues to another time, often in subtle ways, and in them I see clues into what life must have been like for past generations of my family. I found my copy of The Complete Scandinavian Cookbook by Alice B. Johnson at Powell’s Books in Portland a while back. Nestled among Scandinavian and Nordic cookbooks both old and new in the high, crowded shelves, it made its way to mine, where I had all but forgotten again until last spring. With recipes grouped by country, it made it easy for me to go straight to the section on Norway and draft a menu for a Norwegian dinner featuring cod and a simple yet comforting dish of cabbage.

I gently poached the cod before dressing it in a creamy white sauce accented with a hint of mustard and serving it alongside a dish of wilted cabbage with pieces of crunchy bacon and flecks of fresh dill. A study in contrasts, the softness of the cabbage—which has yielded to the heat—gets livened up with crunchy bacon and the herby flavor of fresh dill. It’s as easy as can be, and forgiving.

Wilted Cabbage with Fresh Dill and Bacon (Kål med Dill og Flesk)
Adapted from The Complete Scandinavian Cookbook by Alice B. Johnson (1964)

1 large head cabbage
4 slices bacon (I used uncured applewood-smoked bacon)
1 leek, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
A handful of chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish
Approximately ½ tsp. salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Slice the cabbage into 1-inch strips, discarding the core.

In a large pan, fry the bacon over medium-high heat until crisp, then remove to a paper towel-lined plate and pour off all but a tablespoon of the fat. Add the sliced leek to the fat and cook over medium heat until lightly browned, about a minute or so.

Add the cabbage, and scatter over the dill, a little of the salt, and pepper (go easy on the salt, starting with a pinch and tasting as you go, as you may need more or less depending on the saltiness of the bacon). Add about 1/2 cup water and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer until the cabbage is tender, stirring it occasionally and adding additional water as necessary. Give it a final taste and adjust seasonings as needed—a splash of vinegar might be good if you’re serving it with a rich meal.

To serve, crumble the bacon over the top and garnish with extra dill. Serves 4.

Daytona Strong is The Norwegian American’s Taste of Norway editor. She writes about her family’s Norwegian heritage through the lens of food at her Scandinavian food blog, www.outside-oslo.com. Find her on Facebook www.facebook.com/OutsideOslo; Twitter @daytonastrong; Pinterest @daytonastrong; and Instagram @daytonastrong.

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 27, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.