I think most of those who know me are aware that I love cooking. My focus and interest shifts often, back and forth—right now I'm on a New Mexico kick—and could my grandmothers see me now, they'd say, "You've come a long way, baby—and we don't like it!"—only in Danish.

So, to honor especially my maternal grandmother Emmy, who was a wiz of a cook and taught me to be unafraid, let me present you with a three-course Danish dinner, not meant for a party, but for the physically hardworking man and woman of my countryside childhood, maybe on a Friday night for family din-din. These recipes serve 4 cookbook people. In my experience, cookbook people are really small. My kind of Viking people need more!

Champignonsuppe (Mushroom soup) | Kærnemæelkssuppe (Buttermilk soup) | Øllebrød (Stale rye bread soup)
Frikadeller (Danish meatballs) | Æblekage (Apple dessert)

Champignonsuppe

1 pound of cleaned mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 tbsp butter
2 minced shallots
2 tbsp flour
5 cups chicken broth (we'd make our own; easier now)
Salt and pepper
⅓ cup heavy cream
¼ cup dry sherry or white wine

Melt the butter, medium heat, and sweat the shallots until they turn clear whitish, but not brown. Sprinkle the flour over them and stir until well combined. Add hot (as in HOT!) broth slowly while stirring constantly (a whisk is your friend). Add sliced mushrooms, salt, pepper, and the cream. Simmer gently without a lid for about 10 minutes, then add the wine and lemon juice. Serve with a slice of white bread.

Kærnemæelkssuppe
This is a starter. . . !

3 tbsp corn starch
1 quart buttermilk
1 egg
2-3 tbsp sugar
If desired, a bit of lemon peel

Stir a bit of buttermilk into the corn starch in a heavy saucepan. Add the milk and lemon peel. Gently, and whisking constantly, bring to a gentle boil. Temper the beaten egg with a bit of the milk mix, then add back to the hot milk, whisking diligently (if this separates and curdles, woe is we!). Add sugar. Serve hot.  You can put canned pears or raisins in here, or sprinkle toasted almonds on top—it's still a questionable experience. Should you try this, please let me know how you did!

Øllebrød
This is a gourmet version, mostly to spare you gagging! This was the bane of my being! This too is a starter! OR—baleful thought—breakfast!

1½ pounds European rye bread (no whole grains in there, but as black as possible. Pumpernickel will do nicely!)
1 quart water
2 bottles of Guinness stout or other dark beer
½ cup sugar

Break the bread into smallish chunks and soak in water overnight. Bring the mix to a boil, stirring often, until the bread disintegrates, maybe adding more water, but this should be thick, though not burned. Puree the result. Add puree and beer back to the pot, and boil for 5 minutes. Add sugar. Serve hot with whipped cream on top.

Frikadeller
This has been a hit with each and every child I have tried it on! And adults too, but sometimes the opinion of the small child-creature says more.

1 pound of meatloaf mix (ideally half veal, half pork, but the mix does nicely)
⅓ cup flour
Scant cup milk (or broth, or sparkling water, though that's not what we did in my home!) Make sure the batter isn't too soft of the end product will not be manageable!
1 egg
2 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper (to begin with, adjust if you try the recipe again)
2 tbsp so very minced onion
Margarine for frying (or a mix of butter and olive oil—sorry, Grandma!)

Whisk together everything but the meat, maybe hold back a bit of milk to maybe add later. Stir this mix into the meat slowly; the result should be malleable and firm, not soupy at all! Chill 15 minutes or so. Heat the chosen fat(s) in a skillet, and be generous about the fat(s), and coat a spoon with grease. Shape a frikadelle with the spoon, add to skillet, and coat again between frikadeller. When all the frikadeller are on the skillet, turn down the heat to medium low. Fry 4-5 minutes, turn and repeat the 4-5 minutes, turning up the heat as you turn the frikadeller to make sure they brown well. Serve with boiled small baby or fingerling potatoes and a brown gravy, sauce béarnaise—or just the pan drippings—a salad and pickles.

Infinite varieties are possible here (again, sorry, Grandma!). I sometimes use bread crumbs instead of flour; add herbs galore (Marjoram, I love you! Right now I have so much marjoram that the first 10 people to ask me for some will have a batch!) and garlic; serve with pasta and tomato sauce. The sky's the limit. There's even my mother's take—she added cloves and cardamom to the mix. It was delicious!

Æblekage

Step 1:
4 peeled, cored, sliced, tart apples (Granny Smith or Greening)
2 tbsp water
¼ tsp vanilla
Sugar to taste

Simmer apples and water until the apples are tender. Stir to smash and mash. Add sugar and vanilla to taste, or cheat and use purchased apple sauce.

Step 2:
2 cups coarse breadcrumbs (I use panko—sorry, Grandma, but you would have, had they been available to you!)
½ stick butter or margarine
3 tbsp sugar

Mix together breadcrumbs and sugar. Melt butter/margarine in a skillet, then toast the breadcrumb mixture at medium/medium low until browned and fragrant—not burned! Allow to cool.

Step 3:
Whip 1 cup of heavy cream and get some good strawberry jam out of the fridge!

Assembly, just before serving:
Layer apple compote and breadcrumb yummy, 3 layers of each, in a lovely bowl. Top with heavy cream, and dot with strawberry jam. Chow down! There are variations here, too. Email me if you're interested in hearing about them!

Department of English, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794-5350 - Undergraduate: 631 632-7400 | Graduate: 631 632-7373