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  • Writer's pictureElise

Cook Book Club: November's Ingredients Are Rosemary & Thyme. The Country: Sweden!

This year we are doing things a little differently. Instead of simply an ingredient, we are highlighting entire cultures. Kits will include a little bit about the country of focus, a recipe that is native to the country, and a unique ingredient or two from that recipe without which, it wouldn't be the same. Most recipes are from writers native to the country covered. I'll post the recipes and information here as well, so let's get cooking!

 

As we continue on our culinary journey through Europe, we make our way northeast to Sweden.

A Quick Look at Swedish Cuisine

Adapted from various online history resources

Sweden has a rich history of incorporating the foods and ingredients of other countries and cultures and taking its own spin. The Swedish meatball is actually the perfect example of this. The meatball is from Turkey, having been brought over in the early 1700s by the king, the sauce is based on the French mother sauces, and the sides are from native produce (lingonberry is native to Sweden, etc.). The potato is another great example. Like a number of vegetables you wouldn't initially think of (peppers, tomatoes, etc.), originated in South America. They didn't make it over to Sweden until the 1650s, about one hundred years after they first came to Europe. Nearly another 100 years would pass until it was more widely accepted as a staple food source, promoted by forward-thinking nobility who saw the plant as worth more than the ornamentation it was introduced as. In fact, one such noble, Countess Eva Ekeblad, became the first female inductee into the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1746 for her work developing alcohol, starch and flour from the plant, vastly decreasing the occurrence of famine in Sweden.


As for the Hasselback potato, its history is a little murky. A trainee chef at the Hasselbacken restaurant in Sweden is often credited with the creation of this gem in 1953. However there is evidence to suggest it predates this origin, as a Swedish cookbook from 1929 has something similar. Either way, this quick-cooking potato has become a recognizable symbol of Swedish innovation in cuisine.

 

The Main Event - Part 1

Rosemary & Thyme Infused Olive Oil

While traditionally Hasselback potatoes are flavored with duck fat (most decadent) or butter (fairly standard), you can really use just about any oil or fat product. This first recipe is an herb-infused oil that will go splendidly with the potatoes and really bring the herbiness into the final dish. You can use fresh or dried herbs as both work well to infuse into the oil.

This recipe has been edited and adapted from numerous recipes online for use by the Brown Deer Library Cookbook Club

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Tbsp dried rosemary (or 2.5 sprigs)

  • 1/2 Tbsp dried thyme (or 2.5 sprigs)

  • 2 cups olive oil

Directions

  1. In small saucepan, combine the oil & herbs. Heat over a low heat until it reaches 180º F, and let the rosemary infuse for about 5 minutes. Remove and let cool to room temperature. If desired, transfer a couple of the sprigs to your air tight bottle. Strain the rest out, then add the oil. Seal and store in a cool dark place (or the refrigerator) and use within 3 months.

The Main Course - Part 2

Crispy Hasselback Potatoes with Garlic and Rosemary & Thyme Infused Olive Oil

As adapted and compiled from King Arthur Baking Co. and others for use by the Brown Deer Cookbook Club

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes

  • 5 cloves garlic

  • 4 Tbsp Rosemary & Thyme Infused Olive Oil

  • Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Smash the garlic cloves and peel off the skin. Then pour the oil on the baking sheet and lay the garlic cloves on the sheet pan as well.

  2. Hold the end of one potato. Use a sharp knife to cut across the potato to create 1/16- to 1/8-inch sections. Do not cut through the potato, but cut two-thirds the way down, leaving at least a 1/2 inch solid base at the bottom. Repeat with the remaining potatoes. If easier, lay two wooden spoons as guides to either side of the potato being cut and cut only down to the spoons.

  3. Place the potatoes on the baking sheet and roll them around to cover them with oil. Set them cut-side-up. Then sprinkle each potato generously with salt and pepper. You might want to pour/paint more oil in between the cuts to ensure complete coverage before sprinkling with salt and pepper.

  4. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes. Then use tongs to gently squeeze the base of each potato to open up the folds. Use a pastry brush to brush the herb-infused pan oils over the top of each potato and in between the folds. Discard the garlic cloves if they are blackened.

  5. Roast in the oven for another 30 minutes, until the largest potato is fork tender. Serve warm.

Note: What makes a Hasselback potato is the potato sliced thin but not all the way through and some form of fat or oil all over and between and baked. On a number of occasions I ran across reference to the use of duck fat as elevating your standard Hasselback. All the rest is window dressing. There are more variations on the Hasselback than I can name.

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