Denmark is often cited as the happiest country in the world. This may be in part because bicycles out number cars 2:1 and no matter where you are in the country, you are never more than 30 miles from the sea. Who wouldn’t love the ability to always reach the beach within an hour.
We had some friends over to make a meal from Denmark. Let me tell you, when you invite friends to come and cook with you, there is very little preparation that needs to be done before your guests arrive and it is wonderful. I think it may be my new mode of operation when having people for dinner and it may help me have the same happy state of mind of the Danes.
When Colin and I host gatherings we are often running around in a flurry of activity moments before the guests arrive. We do this so that when we open the door to greet them we can give the sense of being able to effortlessly pull together a wonderful meal, maintain a tidy home and a happy toddler. This could not be further from our normal. I’m not sure why we feel the need to try to convince anyone otherwise. We are not clean cooks. We use every bowl in the house. We stack the sink full of dishes. We spill stuff on the counter that often dries into small sticky puddles. I have visions of being people who plate up the meal and also have a completely clean kitchen, but it’s just not how we operate. We try to stay on top of dishes as we go, but the cooking is so much more fun than the cleaning.
In those pre-door opening moments, the guests don’t see the dishes frantically being washed, the toys being crammed into cupboards, and the last minute wardrobe change because the outfit I cooked in is covered in flour and oily splatter. It is freeing to cook with the company. My preparations included pulling out the necessary ingredients, setting up chopping stations with knives and cutting boards, and pulling out the toys instead of putting them away so that the kids would be happy to play while we cooked. The only thing we made before they arrived was the cocktail, and having that to sip on as we cooked was a fabulous decision. We made an Earl Gray Old Fashioned from our new LARK Cocktails cookbook. We highly recommend this cookbook if you like to entertain a big crowd. (We had to significantly cut down the recipe when making drinks for just 4 of us, she makes BIG batches!)
Our friends have a little girl who is two months older than Micah. In their adorable little 19 and 21 month old ways they were insistent on an appetizer because their little bellies just couldn’t wait to eat. We set them up with a bag of raisins on the floor, they were thrilled and occupied for quite some time.
There were a lot of dishes from Denmark that sounded interesting. Pork was a pretty central ingredient to a lot of their traditional meals. I decided to make a dish called Karbonader, also occasionally referred to as Krebinetter. Karbonader is a breaded pork patty that is pan fried in a bit of butter. I prepared a breading station with shallow dishes of eggwash and breadcrumbs. I delegated the chopping of potatoes and carrots and the pattying of pork. When the prep work had been done, we started to cook.
Once pattied, the pork was dipped in eggs, then breading, then eggs and breading again–because in my opinion if you are going to bread it once, you should definitely bread it twice. We oven roasted potatoes while steaming carrots and peas. We made a traditional parsley cream sauce to cover the vegetables.
The pork patties were a winner. They were moist and flavorful. The breading added a little seasoning and a crunch that left me wanting to go back for more and more. The vegetables were just OK. The parsley sauce was very ‘parsley forward’ which I suppose is another way of telling you that it really just tasted like vegetables covered with loads of parsley. The vegetables were fine but they were far from the stars of the meal.
When you invite someone else to come and cook alongside you, there is not as much pressure on you, the host. In cooking together you have a shared experience in the process. You decide together when to pull things from the oven, when to add a little more spice and when to season with more salt. The responsibility to create something wholly delicious lies with the whole group and not just the host. It’s freeing and it’s just plain fun to connect with friends in the kitchen.
To finish the meal we had Danish butter cookies. I did bake these in advance, because dessert is too important not to test out. It only takes six ingredients to make these little gems. All things I would venture to guess are staples in most homes. Butter, sugar, flour, salt, egg, and vanilla. I didn’t have a piping tip that was big enough to let this dough through, so I hand formed little doughnut shapes and then dragged my fork over the back of them to give the illusion that they were piped. I think it’s safe to say these will appear in our house from time to time when the cookie jar needs to be filled up.