longing for lefse


Happy holidays, everyone.

I was unable to spend Christmas in Minnesota with my parents this year, which means a few things to me:

  1. No li’l weinies on Christmas day.
  2. No dim sum.
  3. No overeating at that fabulous German restaurant where the waitresses wear skimpy dirndls.
  4. No lefse making with my mum.

The important facet of this list of no’s is the latter. I have previously waxed poetic on my love of lefse, or more accurately, potetlefse, which is a Norwegian flatbread made with riced potatoes.

Without my mum as my guide, I was left adrift in the sea of non-Scandinavian Christmas traditions here in Maine. However, we made it work. My boyfriend took time out of his busy end-of-college-career schedule to make me a beautiful lefse stick from a block of curly maple. My mum shipped me a cloth rolling pin cover and a pastry mat. My borrowed cast iron griddle hopped out of its place under the stove, and acted as an excellent substitute for the pricier lefse griddle.

Like I said, we made it work.

As the voices of young choirboys came to us live from A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King’s College, Cambridge, we rolled individual, well-floured balls of dough out into very thin crêpe-like pancakes.

These were then moved to the cast iron griddle, where they cooked until lightly browned on the bottom, and were then flipped for a remaining minute or so of cooking.

After cooking, lefse can be eaten in any number of ways. Butter and a cinnamon-sugar mixture are standard, or if you prefer, “classic.” This year, however, we got a little bit feisty. We created quesadilla-style lefsa wraps containing mustard, onions and locally-made cheddar. We added some spicy red pepper ketchup, which was made the day before for holiday gifts. And, my favorite – we slathered the lefse with mushroom alfredo sauce, before rolling and heating it up.

How have I never before explored the possibilities that lefse has to offer ?

These thin flatbread went perfectly with the Norwegian-style fruit soup and amazingly-flavored Swedish meatballs that made up our Christmas Eve dinner.


Lefse (Potetlefse) {recipe from my mum}

Makes many lefse – freeze some, or give to loved ones. Or, halve the recipe.


8 c. riced russet potatoes
1/2 c. heavy cream
8 tbsp butter, melted
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
3 1/2 c. flour


Peel the potatoes, cook them whole (or halved, if large) in plenty of water until tender.  Leave the lid askew while cooking.  Drain immediately, and take the cover off completely.

Rice potatoes while hot (with a ricer!).  Add cream, butter, salt, sugar, and cool to room temp.  Divide the mixture in half. Add 1 cup of flour to 1/2 potato mixture.  Save second half and add a cup of flour to it after you have rolled out and baked the first half.  Use the remaining flour for rolling out the lefse.

Be sparse with flour when rolling out dough, unless dough is sticking. Roll out as thinly as possible, and transfer to a hot griddle. Cook until lefse begins to bubble and accrue light brown spots on the underside, then flip. Cook second side for thirty to forty five seconds, or until done.

Norweigan-Style Fruit Soup {original recipe}

Makes one large pot of rich soup


6 1/2 c. water
1/4 c. tapioca pearls
1 cinnamon stick
1 c. dried, pitted prunes
1 c. raisins
3/4 c. dried currants
1 c. dried unsulphured apricots
1 c. dried apples
1 tbsp rum
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
3/4 c. grape juice
3/4 c. orange juice


Combine water with tapioca pearls in a large soup pot, and let sit for 1 to 2 hours. Add cinnamon stick, dried fruits, rum, and lemon slices, and cook on medium heat for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Mixture will become thickened and darker in tone as it cooks – let it continue to cook until ‘broth’ is dark in color.

Add a bit more rum if you’re feeling cheery, and add grape and orange juices. I used grape and orange juice concentrate, and added the appropriate amount of water to the mix.

Swedish Meatballs {recipe from my mum}

Makes four to five dozen, depending on size


1 tbsp butter
1 c. minced onion
2 1/2 lbs meat loaf mixture (I used half veal, half pork)
1 c. fresh bread crumbs
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 1/2 c. half and half
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried dill
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cardamom

3 tbsp butter
1/3 c. flour
30 oz. beef broth (two cans’ worth)
1 c. heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp dill


Cook onion in butter until soft.  In large bowl, combine onion with next 10 ingredients.  Mixture is very soft.  Shape into 1 1/2 inch balls; arrange on jelly roll pan lightly sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake in a 400 F oven until cooked through and lightly browned, 14-16 min.

Meanwhile, melt 3 tbsp butter in large pot, slowly stir in flour, and gradually whisk in beef broth.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens.  Stir in cream and dill, simmer 5 minutes. Scrape meatballs and browned bits into gravy, stir to combine.  Cover pot with a lid, and refrigerate several hours to overnight.  Reheat in a preheated 325 F oven until heated through, 40-50min.

Enjoy these foods, both sweet and savory, as only my gorgeous cat could:


I wish you all the best for a cheery 2012 !


19 thoughts on “longing for lefse

  1. It all looks delicious. I love the pictures – the cat yawn is perfect.

    I’ve never ever had swedish meatballs. Yours look really good. Perhaps I’ll jot that on my New Years list of goodies to make.

    1. sarah, the cat looked so peaceful while I was cooking lefse that I had to take a few pictures of her. But then I disturbed her a bit too much, and she became a giant-mouthed monster!

      Try these meatballs out. They are creamy and amazing and delicious – and I got a vegetarian to try one. That will be my slogan for these;)

  2. *hyperventilates with hands flapping around in excitement* Your boyfriend made you a lefse stick out of maple?! He’s practically Pa Ingalls and Almanzo all rolled up into one! (In a non-creepy way, of course, as having your partner and parent very similar is generally frowned upon by society.)

    Mustard and cheeeese! Nom nom nom. But even more exciting is the little owl you’re keeping in a box in your Christmas tree. And don’t tell me that’s an optical illusion, I know for a fact that teeny-meeny Christmas tree owls exist furreal yes indeedy.

    Also: oooh, fruit soup! I could totally have that, because orange juice in such an application is allowed to enter my gullet.

    Also: PSYCHIC CAT!!

    1. Hannah, you are so right! He even bought an old-timey-looking wood planer doodad, so he is definitely Almanzo and Pa Ingalls and ever other handy person from the days of yore rolled into one. If only his facial hair looked more old-timey days of yore then we’d have something.

      Hehee. The owl is a Christmas card:P We don’t have many ornaments, so we put our xmas cards in the tree as well. I wish he was in a box, though! You see, I loooooooooooove owls!!

      The orange juice wasn’t even discernable in the fruit soup, so you would be fine. A wonderful wonderful soup, so rich and decadent!


      1. I do like a man with a beard. Beards are gooooooood. Old-timey or modern-day-stubble, I’m in.

        I know, I know. But I still maintain your awesome photography skills makes it look like a real owl hiding in the branches. And do you really love owls? Because if you do, then I think you must be my grandma in disguise. Hi Grandma! I’ve figured you out!

        To be honest, I hope that wasn’t really Psychic Cat striking again with the psychicness. I’d hate to think of you feeling like that face looks!

        1. As long as beards aren’t tending too much towards Amish-style, I’m down with them too.

          Maybe I’m joshing, and it is a real owl in the tree. At any rate, it works nicely in the tree, because the tree is in the room with ten or eleven other owls. Hi owls!

          That was just Psychic Cat waking up from her nap. Why do cats yawn when they wake up, but people yawn when they’re sleepy???

  3. So glad you were able to salvage Christmas dinner with Scandanvian goodness amongst the New Englanders. It sounds as is if were quite a warm and delicious event despite the distance from your folks. I only hope that Christmas Day was equally as warm ;)

    Is that a sponsored commercial, Emma? Wow!

    1. Martha, it was definitely warm and delicious, and comforting despite the distance. And yes, Christmas Day proved equally as warm… I was taken aback by all the generosity:)

      I can’t see the sponsored commercial, hmmmm. ??? yikes!

  4. Well, you pass. There is nothing more that I can teach you, young kitten. And, ohmygoodness, you shouldn’t have given it away that the teeny tiny owl wasn’t real…we really had Hannah going there for awhile!
    A first, this year, we actually had enough meatballs to put some away in the freezer for some future scandinavian feast…I guess it’s because we were short on guests for
    Christmas Eve dinner:-(

    1. Mum, oh but that is so untrue. You can teach me sooo so so so much still! So so much.

      We didn’t put any meatballs in the freezer, and in fact, we are going to make them again in a day or two. So many meatballs!

      We missed being there on Christmas Eve too:(

  5. You still did a great job without your mum’s guidance! Looks GOOD.
    Yes, being away from the family during the holiday season can be a downer but so happy to see that cooking food from home makes it a little better. :)

    Oh ahh…check out your cat! Adorable! My cat and your cat would SO get along

    1. Adrian, yes, we did a good job, thank you! I still missed my mum very much, though:/ Cooking traditional foods was definitely my comfort during the past week, you’ve got the right idea!

      I’m not sure if my cat would get along with other cats or not…. every previous attempt has been a drastic failure:P But it would probably be good for her…!

  6. It’s ALWAYS nice to have a little piece of home with you when you can’t be at the home itself. I’ve never heard of lefse – not being scandanavian (more of a hearty short-and-stocky polish/hungarian/slovak stock myself), these are unfamiliar to me. Time to try something new! Also, super-sweet of your BF to carve you a lefse stick. :D

    Hope you had a great Christmas and hope you have a super New Year!

    1. Mary, very true, it is nice to have a piece of home to bring with you, especially through cooking:)

      Think of lefse as a potato crêpe, and you’ll be close to imagining its deliciousness and versatility. So very tasty, while also so very plain (something my Scandinavian forefathers would approve of).

      I did have a great Christmas. I hope your povitica was a smashing hit, and that you have a super New Year’s too;)

  7. I’m sorry you didn’t get to go home for Christmas. But it looks like you managed to have an okay time. The lefse are new to me and I’d like to give them a try – with the Kings Choir in the background of course.

    1. Charlie Louie, I did manage to have a great time, although sentiments of longing for home where definitely present. Mmm, love that choir! Give the lefse a try – it’s a terrific kitchen activity, or event, really:)

  8. That cat photo is priceless! Lefse sounds like an awesome blend of starch and carbs..yum!! I’m glad you were able to make it with your bf even though you didn’t get to spend Christmas at home. Fruit soup! wow. Hope your holidays were great!

And now I'd like to pass the mic / So you c'mon and do anything you like ...aka, Leave your reply.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s