What to Serve with Lefse (plus stories, of course!)

What to serve with lefse…? Nothing! Eat a stack of lefse for your whole meal 🙂 No, seriously, there are a few items that go really well with lefse. I’ll be putting up recipes in the next few days, so you’ll have time to shop for ingredients. (P.S. Bonus story at the end of this post!)

The first thing that springs to mind is rommegröt (ROOM – UH – GROOT). Grandma told me that in the “Old Days” folks would milk a cow right after it gave birth and make a special dish from the ultra-creamy milk. I guess the calf was out of luck! But since they raised cows to produce cream and butter to sell, they wanted to wean the calves off the momma’s teat as soon as possible anyway. In fact, Grandma explained how they did this by dipping their hand into a bucket of milk and letting the calf lick their fingers, moving every closer and closer to the bucket of milk. I can imagine the rough tongue eagerly lapping the dripping milk from my hand….

Anyway, whatever the genesis of rommegröt, these days we make it with heavy cream from the supermarket! Buy a quart of the heaviest, richest cream you can find and heat it in a heavy pot very slowly — very slowly. Do not scorch or boil. The point is to heat until some of the butter rises to the top. You want it to separate some. Once you see the butter rising to the top, you are going to add a half teaspoon of salt (to bring out some flavor) and some all-purpose flour (add a tablespoon at a time, starting with 2 tablespoons — you can always add more if it doesn’t thicken properly) and whisk mixture to prevent lumps. Stir continuously. Heat at this point might need to go up a little to make sure the flour cooks, but again, do not scorch!

Cook for a few minutes or so until the mixture resembles cream of rice or sour cream (sort of). What you are looking for is a creamy porridge-like consistency. Pour the glop into a pretty dish and set on the counter top. Do not cover and do not refrigerate. Why? Because what you are after is a layer of melted butter floating on top of a cream-porridge. After the butter rises, sprinkle liberally with white sugar. As the dish cools, the sugar and butter will combine to make a crunchy top to this creamy dish.

If no butter separates out, do not panic. Just melt some butter and pour it on top. Voila! Rommegröt. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to pull that little trick. Every year I would talk to Grandma on the phone and ask her for help with my rommegröt: “It’s just not separating, Grandma!” Every year she’d ask if I coooked it slowly enough, etc. I think I’ve been in too much of a hurry too often (big surprise), and that has been my rommegröt’s downfall. When I slow down, it works fine.

A story about rommegröt…. When my husband and I were in graduate school at Washington State University a dozen or so years ago, before my son was born, we invited a Chinese exchange student (Boudi) and her son to share Christmas Eve dinner with us and another couple at our home. Now, every Christmas Eve, I always prepare a Scandinavian dinner in honor of my grandmother’s family (recipes to follow in coming days!) I figured that our Chinese friends would find this custom interesting, and they graciously accepted. In addition to the items I supplied (Swedish meatballs, rice, potatoes, carrots and peas, lefse, and rommegröt) our American friends supplied their own Scandinavian favorites (potato sausage, creamy cucumber salad, rice pudding, and fruita soupa). Yes, makes your mouth water, eh?!

Well, we sat down to eat and explained all the dishes, and Boudi and her son sampled everything. Then this boy — about 16 as I remember and tall as anything — asked if he might have seconds of the rommegröt. “Of course,” I said. I was surprised, though, because I had thought that, generally speaking, Chinese people tended to be lactose intolerant or at least did not care for dairy all that much. Boudi then explained that in their particular region of China, one of their regional specialties is a kind of fried cheese. AH!

After his fourth helping, the Chinese teenager polished off the last of the rommegröt! We adults all stared with gaping mouths. Then we shared a hearty laugh. Eeghads, that boy can eat, I thought. Of course that was before my son was born, as I’ve said, so I had no idea yet how much a growing boy can consume.

Eventually, we all got bundled up for the drive to town to take Boudi and her son home and to head to the Christmas Eve service at our church. We lived 17 miles from Moscow, Idaho where we went to church — our own town of 1,000 souls was smack dab in the middle of miles and miles of rolling wheat and lentil fields. Now covered with about a foot of fresh snow. Uh, oh.

After a wild ride into town with our international guests, we made our way to church. Candles and friends greeted us, and as we sang the old, familiar carols, we could see the snow continue to fall outside the windows.

The next morning, we awoke to a brilliant blue sky, dazzling sun, and two and a half feet of snow. That Christmas day we snuggled under the covers, snuggling with our dog and watching old movies, and we ate leftovers — minus the rommegröt, of course. Ah, but there was still lefse!

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2 Responses

  1. Great story!

    Also, I wanted to let you know that my wife and I are sending out Christmas cards this year. We aren’t doing a newsletter because of the little time we have, but we are including a photo of our daughter. Anyhow, you did inspire me with all your talk of your Christmas letter, so I may attempt that some other year.

  2. Thanks, strugglingwriter! I’m glad you’ll have a chance to get out the cards and photo. I’m SURE people will be happy to see your darling daughter 🙂

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