Lefse-making with Patrice Johnson

I’ve always been envious of my Norwegian-American friends who were born with a lefse roller in one hand and a potato ricer in the other. For years I’ve attempted the roll-transfer-fry (the precise technical terms for preparing Scandinavian flatbreads) of the delicate potato and flour dough, and I’ve come to appreciate the skills of true lefse artisans. Lefse-making is a complicated task, and not one I claim to be good at. My lefse is never round, always tough, and usually tears before it makes it to the hot griddle.

I approached one of my Norwegian-Lutheran friends and asked, “What do you think about getting the kids together and having a lefse-making party?” I assumed that because she was raised by a church basement mom, she inherited lefse DNA. She hadn’t.

We gathered our teenagers and their friends in my tiny kitchen and attempted to show them the roll-transfer-fry technique. After witnessing our mostly failed efforts, the kids took over. They settled into their stations and tasks. My friends and I opened the sparkling wine and encouraged the kids with applause and enthusiasm.

As payment for their hard work I whipped up a few dozen gravlax pizzas, made by crisping a lefse round and topping it with loads of cured salmon, sour cream, pickled onions and cucumbers, and caviar. The kids devoured the pizzas as quickly as I could bring them to the table.

There is a phenomenon we refer to as Lefse-making Acquisition. This is the period during which youth can acquire lefse-making skills (whether or not they inherited the lefse gene). Some kids are great at shaping raw dough into balls, others make excellent rollers, and some kids have the dexterity necessary to successfully transfer completed lefse rounds to and from the grill.

If you’ve never made lefse before, find a nice Norwegian-Lutheran who is willing to teach you or take a class from an expert. Even better, find some kids who can do the work for you.

Helpful hint:  Do not feed your workers until they have completed their tasks. Once fed, workers slack off.

Along with gravlax pizza, I have a few other new twists on serving lefse. Customers sampled these at Ingebretsen’s this Saturday and the recipes are included below. I’ll be making some of these on Channel 5’s Twin Cities Live on December 9. Please tune in!

–Patrice Johnson

If you enjoyed this story, please check out Patrice’s blog, Called to the Table, where she posts a weekly food column for The Gaylord Hub.

***For all of you who have been inspired by this to try your hand at lefse-making, Ingebretsen’s has the perfect Lefse Starter Kit, which includes all the equipment you need to give lefse-making a go.***

GRAVLAX LEFSE PIZZA

Gravlax PizzaBrush a generous amount of olive oil on each side of lefse round; bake in 325 degree oven on both sides until just crisp (be careful not to burn).  Remove from oven and top with sour cream or creme fraiche, fresh dill and chives, gravlax, caviar, pickled cucumbers and red onion.

LEFSE CHIPS WITH LINGONBERRY SALSA

5 lefse rounds
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Use a pizza cutter to slice lefse into 3” triangles; coat with cooking spray. Place in single-layers on baking sheets and bake in batches for 20 minutes, turning at 10 minutes, until lefse is golden brown and crisp. Season with salt and cool. Store in airtight container until serving. Be very careful not to over-brown or burn lefse.

For the salsa: a homemade salsa works well, as does your favorite jarred version.

1 cup salsa
½ – 1 cup lingonberry preserves
Juice from 1/2 lime
Cilantro

Combine all ingredients and serve with chips.

LEFSE CREPES

Spread lefse round with chocolate-hazelnut butter (such as Nutella) or a melted Freia chocolate bar. Sprinkle with toasted hazelnuts. Roll lefse around filling. Place pat of butter in non-stick pan and gently melt. Add rolled lefse and heat on both sides until golden in color; up to 2 minutes each side. Serve with whipped cream and additional nuts if desired.

Option: melt your favorite chocolate bar and add a splash of cream. Spread lefse round with chocolate sauce, top with almonds, heat as above, and serve with whipped cream.

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