Day 3 of French cooking, with a Scandinavian twist

We started off on Wednesday by tackling an omelet soufflé with parmesan, which I thought was a great twist for something new to do with eggs for weekend brunches. Like many of the dishes that Poul teaches, it was not extremely complicated to make, but was quite elegant and delicious to serve. To make the soufflé, we melted milk and butter and added that to flour and lots of grated parmesan and whisked in egg yolks. We beat the egg whites separately with an electric blender until the peaks were stiff and then gently folded them into the mixture to add height and airiness to the dish. We put all of it into a pan and then baked it in the oven – quite straightforward. The result was light and fluffy but also rich and full of parmesan flavor, making for a surprising and very tasty dish.

Folding egg yolk into whisked egg whites for the parmesan souffle

Flavorful and light twist on an omelette

Our next course was mushroom risotto, absolutely jam packed with colorful mushrooms. We used four different varieties: bright orange chantrelles or girolles (my favorite), musky cepes caked in dirt (sibling of porcini), gray pleurote grise with long knobbly fingers shaped like coral, and large champignon blond (basically a cremini). It was really a mushroom dish with a little risotto on the side but I have no complaints about that. We made the risotto a bit differently than I had learned in Italy, so it was nice to be exposed to yet another technique – I'm quickly learning that there are as many techniques as there are chefs! In this case we started by sautéing onions in butter and then adding in the rice, constantly stirring and slowly adding in our freshly made vegetable broth as it was absorbed. We cleaned, chopped, and sautéed the mushrooms until they were fully cooked and then added them in with grated parmesan when the risotto was basically done and just covered the pot to let the flavors marinate together. Keeping with our parmesan theme for the morning, the risotto was rich and delicious.

Our variety of mushrooms

It always amazes me just how small mushrooms get when you cook them

Stirring the risotto with shallots and white wine

No risotto would be complete without tons of cheese

Cheesy mushroom risotto

A nice long walk was in order to prepare for our multi-course Danish dinner. Our starter was a fantastic and very impressive dish – freshly smoked fish, served warm on a bed of greens with a lovely cream and chive sauce. We salted the slices of fresh cod earlier in the day and left them in the fridge to dehydrate a bit. To cook them, we spread smoked sawdust on the bottom of the smoker, put the fish on the grill portion, covered the top, and then put the whole thing on the stovetop to smoke for about ten minutes. At first I was sure something was burning, but the aroma gradually shifted to an appetizing smokey smell and the fish emerged a lovely toffee color, the flakes moist and infused with flavor. I don't think I'll be going out to buy a smoker any time soon, but I would like to try to experiment with the grill outside my apartment building to see if I could get a similar effect.

Salted fish about to be smoked. The smoked sawdust is on the bottom of the grill pan.

Toffee color fish, totally transformed by just a few minutes in the smoker

Creme fraiche and chive dressing for the fish

Our main dish was frikadeller, or Danish meatballs. Larger than Swedish meatballs and shaped in the quinelle we learned how to make earlier in the week, the dish is made by blending ground pork, veal, onions, garlic, eggs, milk, and herbs. In our case, we used Poul's meat grinder to actually grind our own meat, which was definitely an experience.

Frying the frikadellers

We served the pan fried frikadellers with a side of potato salad, for which we made our very own mayonnaise. Mayo is one of those things that I think of as quite intimidating to make from scratch so it was cool to be able to try it with professional supervision. To make it, we whisked together egg yolks and slowly drizzled in vegetable oil, making sure that the mixture didn't separate. In our case, we also added a spoonful of Dijon mustard to help flavor the potatoes as well as some lemon juice. We mixed the mayonnaise with minced shallots, garlic, and creme fraiche to dress the potato salad.

Ingredients for mayo: egg whites, salt, mustard, and oil (soon to be drizzled in)

Potato salad with freshly made mayo and creme fraiche

We rounded out the meal with a pickled cucumber salad and a pickled tomato salad, which we made by marinating the vegetables in a mixture of apple cider vinegar, sugar, salt and water. The sweetly acidic vegetables definitely balanced well with the creamy potatoes and sizzling frikadellers.

Pickled tomatoes and cucumbers

The full Danish feast

And of course, no meal would be complete without dessert. We made ice cream again (zero complaints here) and I asked if we could try to swirl something into it to see how that would work. We agreed on almond toffee crunch, since we thought that would go well with the apple almond gratin we were baking. It was amazing – we made caramel again by melting sugar on the stovetop but this time we let it caramelize further without any milk and added in chopped almonds, then spread it on a pan to let it cool and harden before we chopped it up and blended it into the vanilla ice cream.

Homemade toffee crunch, with almond slivers

Can't have too much of two good things: fresh vanilla ice cream and chopped toffee

To make the apple tart we boiled peeled apples with vanilla beans and lemon juice and then spread the fresh applesauce on a baking dish. On top we spread a mixture of ground almonds, sugar, butter, and eggs and then let the whole thing bake. Perfect vehicle for melty ice cream.

Preparing to boil the apples with lemon juice and vanilla

Surprising how fast the apples boil themselves into a sauce

Spreading almond custard on the applesauce

Piping hot apple tart

The ice cream stole the show for sure

Since it was a dark and stormy Halloween night and we were eating in a 400 year old house with the wind howling outside, conversation invariably turned to the two ghosts who apparently live in the house with Poul. For anyone who knows me, this is not a conversation I wanted to have, but my attempts to change the topic were thwarted. Luckily we had lots of red wine and rich dessert to help blunt my fear. I also made Poul drive me down the road to the brightly lit house where I'm staying in the guest room of a lovely Welsh couple – I was definitely not walking in the dark after that conversation!

 

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