Sipping dirty martinis at a piano bar, Tess Kristensen taught me two Norwegian phrases necessary for entry into her world. “Har du penger” translated means, “do you have money?” and “tusen takk” is “a thousand thank yous.” With that, our friendship was born. I’m lucky because for the past 5 years Tess was both my friend and my manager. We worked together in the Learning Department of a financial services company in Philadelphia. She is moving on to a new company and Friday was her last day. This post is in her honor because Tess believes in life-long learning, and cooking this lapskaus oppskrift (stew recipe) was certainly an educational experience.
Born in Oslo, Norway, Tess is half British and half Norwegian. Her family moved to Florida when she was 7 years old and still considered a citizen of Norway, she goes back there to visit her father’s family every few years. Tess can talk in great depth about her favorite Norwegian foods and is on a first name basis with the bartenders at Aquavit Restaurant in NYC. A few months ago, Tess and I enjoyed an amazing dinner there and until today, it was my only taste of Norwegian food. Remembering the 4-star meal we shared, it was with some trepidation that I entered Wegmans Supermarket, shopping list in hand. The recipe, sent to Tess by her father and similar to one her Aunt Berit uses, calls for 6 potatoes. I was off to a good start. Potatoes were familiar although I had no idea they were such a big part of Norwegian cooking. Tess said when she was growing up they had potatoes with everything. Her dad made them every night. Usually mashed. Tess also remembers eating bowl after bowl of lapskaus. Her Bestemor (Grandmother) used to make it and now her aunt makes it. “The last time I ate it was on a cold day when I was visiting Norway,” Tess said. “My parents are slowly restoring my grandparents’ house and it had no electricity – I was helping them and was so happy to eat it when I got back to my Aunt’s house.”
The stew is filled with root vegetables and so I checked off Russets and moved down the aisle. Next on the list was parsley root. Parsley root? That’s funny. Who ever heard of parsley root? I assumed the google translator tool made a mistake so I added fresh parsley to my basket instead. I began searching for the third item, rutabaga. I didn’t know what it looked like. Was it a vegetable or fruit? Some sort of squash perhaps? Turnips? I found it! A big, purpleish, softball covered with a waxy substance. Right next to it was parsley root. Wait a minute! Parsley has roots! Who knew? Wegmans knew. Tess’ father and Aunt Berit knew. Parsley root is off-white and tastes a little sweet and a tiny bit nutty.
Once all the ingredients were purchased, chopped, browned and quietly bubbling, the stew recipe seemed easy in retrospect. But, something seemed a bit wrong. The broth was delicate and clear. The beef and potatoes were tender. Certainly savory, but not “stew-like.” A quick email was sent to Tess, who contacted her father, who forwarded it to Aunt Berit in Norway who suggested, “Saa er det bare aa vente til kjoettet er moert, bedre og bedre jo lengre det koker.” Of course! Let it simmer for a while–the longer it cooks, the better. Great advice (in any language). Now I had a proper stew. My husband ate two bowls. I suggested dropping off a container of it to my in-laws house, but Kevin wanted to keep it for himself; a sure sign of a successful oppskrift (recipe).
–I am now an unofficial ambassador for unique root vegetables. The Wegmans cashier didn’t recognize the parsley root or rutabaga and I was happy to explain them to her and talk about my stew. I’d like to think when her shift ended she headed back to the vegetable section to purchase her own root veggies.
–Am I the only person who didn’t know that beef shoulder is the same thing as chuck roast? The butcher laughed at me when I kept asking him why it was named Chuck instead of Shoulder.
–It is difficult to make stew look sexy when shooting it. Stew isn’t easy to plate. I debated adding a sprig of fresh parsley on top but didn’t want to overdo it. Should I put the whole loaf of bread in the shot or just a few slices? I opted for realism because I intended to eat the still life for lunch.
–Over the past 5 years of working with Tess I have learned that family, friends and good health are more important than any 9-5 job; that the pursuit of excellence is admirable and that if you have a clear vision, you can achieve something great.
– Tess’ philosophy towards food is to eat what you love in moderation and always be open to trying new things. Her general life advice is to laugh, live and love well because life is short. I’m grateful for the time we had. Our working relationship has ended but I know we’ll remain friends. Tusen Takk, Tess. Save me a seat at Aquavit.
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Ca. 600 g storfekjøtt av bog (høyrygg eller bibringe) Ca. 2 ss smør til steking Ca. 2 dl vann 1 buljongterning 6 poteter 3 gulrøtter 1 stor skive kålrot 2 persillerøtterCa. 4 dl vann/buljong 1 ts salt 1/2 ts grovmalt pepper.Skjær kjøttet i terninger og brun det i små porsjoner. Ha kjøttet i ei gryte og hell over vann/buljong. Vask og rens grønnsakene og potetene, skjær dem i passe biter. Tilsett grønnsaker og poteter og la alt trekke på middels varme til alt er mørt. Rør minst mulig slik at lapskausen ikke blir grøtete, men pass på at den ikke svir seg i bunnen. Smak til med salt og pepper. Lapskausen kan godt lages uten bruning. Rester av kokt kjøtt kan gjerne brukes. Server med grovt brød eller flatbrød og tyttebær.
Roughly translated recipe:
1 ½ lbs beef shoulder
2 Tbs butter
2 cups of water into which is dissolved 1 bouillon cube
1 large rutabaga
2 parsley roots
4 cups of water
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground pepper
3 cloves garlic (I added this to the recipe because Kevin likes the taste of garlic)
Serve with a loaf of bread (I used multigrain because the baker drew a blank when I asked for Norwegian bread)
Cut meat into cubes and brown it in the butter
Cube all veggies (note, for those of you as unfamiliar with rutabaga as I was: you’ll need to peel it first until you reveal all of the light golden flesh under the waxy skin).
Dissolve the bouillon in the 2 cups of water
Pour over meat in pan
Add all chopped vegetables and cover with 4 cups of water
Cook on medium-low until vegetables are tender (about 45 minutes)
Stir as little as possible but make sure it doesn’t burn on the bottom.
Season with salt and pepper
Serve with bread