February 5, 2014 by caitlinvaclark
Most of you are probably going to think I’m off my rocker, but about once a week since the beginning of January, I’ve spent an entire day trying to find snow. I have dreams of a cozy country inn where we can go for a long winter hike and curl up with a good book by a fire in a rustic lounge. We had a trip to Copenhagen scheduled towards the end of January and I thought that I might get my fix. I had hopes that it would be all fluffy snow-covered parks and cuddly polar bears.
I neglected to realize that a forecast of snow and below-freezing weather in a fishing city located on a Northern sound means ice violently attacking you. So instead we stayed indoors and we ate.
When Chris and I travel, I usually make a list of potential sights to check out: museums, palaces, gardens, etc. But really we only try to do one or two over a weekend and get a feel for the city by just wandering around, getting “lost,” and popping into a random cafe or bar. On this trip, we were more on a point A to point B track. And most of our point Bs were back to the hotel lobby for wine.
It was so windy on top of the cold sleet and rain that you couldn’t use your umbrellas and just had to settle for being an icicle. At least our hotel lobby had a fireplace to dry off and warm up. A bit more chic than snuggly but it got the job done. In case you’re interested, we stayed at the Avenue Hotel which was very comfortable, about a 15 minute walk into the city center, and in my opinion, a great value for money.
We did manage to check out one of the royal palaces and explore the incredible (indoor!) food market, Torvehallerne, where we purchased Danish Danishes and sat at one of the counters to eat a fabulous array of smørrebrøds.
Smørrebrøds, different from smorgasbords, are basically open-faced sandwiches topped with everything from pan fried fish and caper sauce to these with meatballs and potato salad or pate, roasted beets, & bacon!?!
But Saturday was spent almost entirely at Noma. After getting onto the wait list three months before our trip, we were offered a last minute reservation for lunch at the communal table. From everything we had heard, Noma would be an over-the-top, incredibly odd, and very expensive experience but our theory was if you get a chance to eat at “the best restaurant in the world,” you take it. Overall the entire afternoon was incredible. The chefs (who also serve as your servers) were informative, approachable, and so friendly. They even took us on a tour of the kitchens and the research lab. The food itself was very earthy. Throughout the meal, you could see the theme of eating the land. I mean, at times you actually were.
To give you an idea of how out of the box the food was, one of my favorite bites was a dessert involving mashed potatoes?!? My least favorite was a smoked and pickled quail egg that burst in your mouth like a gusher. We ate everything from burnt leeks to hand dived sea urchins.
We started the meal with their famous Nordic Coconut. It’s basically the (almost literal) polar opposite of drinking a piña colada on a white sand beach. Instead you’re sipping mushroom broth out of a turnip with white snow and waves splashing on the icy pier outside your window.
As we were eating the deep fried moss dipped in creme fraiche, Chris said, “I could eat a whole bucket of these on a Sunday watching football.” And the Swedish woman sitting to my left said that she had learned in girl scouts to eat moss for survival if you’re ever lost in the woods.
The little details really made the meal, down to the bread and butter. They served warm bread with “raw” butter, which was the curds just before the buttermilk separates and the butter forms. It made the bread taste like sourdough. Then there was pork fat topped with crumbled crackling. This one tasted like Pringles. Yup. Filthy delicious.
After 20+ courses, along with wine, I wasn’t sure I’d ever need to eat Nordic food again, but one of the highlights of our meal was the savory aebleskivers, or round Danish pancakes. And this was in the ballpark of things I could make at home!
I’d had sweet, apple-filled aebleskivers before but loved the idea of a savory presentation. So I decided to combine sweet and savory, making a bacon applesauce. Start making the applesauce by sautéing bacon lardons and using their fat as the base. Then add onions, peeled, small-diced apples, and thyme.
Cover and let this simmer over a very low heat for about 30 minutes, then stir back in the crisp bacon. At this stage, the applesauce can be kept for up to five days.
There will definitely be plenty of leftovers of the savory applesauce which makes a great topping for pork chops or tenderloin for a quick weeknight meal. I served mine with a simple and delicious braised red cabbage.
But now for the real reason to make this applesauce… to fill delicious little puffy round pancakes.
The key to a fluffy aebleskiver is gently folding in egg whites to keep the batter light and airy.
These take a special pan but one that is worth adding to your kitchen collection. Once you learn the technique, you might even think they are easier and better than regular pancakes.
Once you’ve melted a little butter in the pan, add about 2 tablespoons of batter, then a teaspoon or two of filling. Then top with a drizzle more batter.
Once the bottom has set, which only takes a minute, use chopsticks or wooden skewers to turn the pancakes. This sounds harder than it is. They really do just flip over.
You can of course fill the aebleskivers with your favorite pancake toppings. Nutella is a classic choice for a sweet option. Or consider a cheesy filling for a totally savory option.
But honestly this applesauce with onions, thyme, and bacon is the best of both worlds.
While the ones that I made were not brushed with fermented grasshoppers like those at Noma, they turned out perfect and would be fabulous for brunch or for a different starter at a cocktail party.
Pork and Apple Aebleskivers
Makes about 20
1 cup milk
2 eggs, separated
2 Tbs sugar
1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
Butter for the pan
Savory applesauce (recipe below)
Powdered sugar for serving
In a large bowl, whisk together milk, egg yolks, and sugar. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into the bowl and mix until just combined. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites to a stiff peak using an electric mixer. Gently fold into the flour mixture.
Heat an aebleskiver pan over medium heat. Add a small pinch of butter to each of the cups. Pour in about 2 tablespoons of batter (2/3 full) then add a teaspoon of the applesauce and top with a bit more batter to cover. Allow each pancake to cook for one minute, then using wooden skewers or chopsticks, gently flip the pancake over into the cup. Cook for 1-2 minutes until set. Remove and keep warm. Repeat with remaining batter.
Serve dusted with powdered sugar.
6 oz. bacon lardons
1 medium onion, diced
4 cups apples, peeled and small cubes
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tsp sugar
Pinch of salt and pepper
1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
Cook bacon in a Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp. Remove from pot and reserve.
Add onions to the pot and cook in the bacon fat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the apples and thyme. Season with sugar, salt, and pepper and stir to combine. Deglaze the pot with the cider vinegar. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add bacon and reserve. Can be stored for 5 days.