It’s A Winter Wondering Tale

I felt cold air on my nose. I woke up and look around. No snow here.  I must be dreaming. Everything looks the same, except for one thing. It is Christmas Eve.

 

They told me to wait by the fireplace for the BigFatMan in the Red Suit. With a head-tilt, I looked at them, “But we don’t have a chimney here. I would rather be close to the warm stove where the smell of cookies is coming from.”

 

Then I heard the doorbell ring. “Who is it? Did we order pizza today?”

 

“Oh good! I thought I would not get it on time. Next year will be too much waiting,” said the Swedish Chef to the man by the door.

 

“Nope that’s not  TheBigFatMan in the Red Suit,” as I glimpsed at the man before he disappeared. That man is not fat and not dressed in red suit either.  But why did he give the Swedish Chef a big white bag? And then when I looked at the Swedish Chef, his face is beaming and he was grinning from ear to ear.

 

“I wonder what’s in the bag?” My senses dictate a fact. It’s definitely not bacon. They don’t have that here either. Maybe it’s a bag of sweet goodies. Or prinskorv  or falu sausages. Or roasted beef ribs. Or liver patty. Or cold meats. Or gravlax. Or dinner steaks.

 

Then I saw him pull out a black shiny thing out of the box. Now this is really getting out of shape. I was expecting something soft and fluffy, not a hard black box.

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“It’s the Force!” hollered the Swedish Chef to me. “Oh! That’s a holler of joy by the way,” as he grinned back to me.

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“Where’s  the button? Isn’t that suppose to glow in the dark like in the movies? Or maybe it will transform into a nice pudding pie after a few minutes.”

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“Drake, always remember some days it’s a grocery bag, some days it’s not. And a shopping bag doesn’t always mean it has meatballs in it,” whispered Grandma Glasses.

 

“ Am I hallucinating or have I developed 3D senses? Aha! I am having hunger pang attacks again. And no one is in the kitchen.”

Oh well, back to being patient. I don’t mind waiting for the julbord to be ready, if only the days are shorter and the nights longer. I know TheBigFatMan in the Red Suit has some rabbit meat in his big sack when he comes.

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The Stove Top Hambo

On a warm quiet evening, I went into the kitchen to get some water. And there she was, Grandma Glasses digging into the pantry shelves like a treasure hunter.

She turned around to me and said, “I have to be quick Drake. I need to prepare the ingredients. The Swedish Chef is cooking tonight.”

“But this is not the first time he will be cooking dinner,” I muttered while I take a sip of my cold water.

“But tonight it’s going to be different. You will see him do the Swedish Hambo-Polka steps,” said Grandma Glasses in a voice that sounded like a burble.

“The what?” I turned to her as she speak. Most of the time I hear the Swedish Chef speak and he sounds as Swedish as a Swedish should be. But everytime Grandma Glasses says it herself it confuses me.

“The hambo is a traditional dance that originated in Sweden in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, has three-count step, with one step movement on each beat of the measure, danced smoothly and easily, not tense but floating with the music,” explained Grandma Glasses.

“The steps should be smooth and relaxed, never jerky.” as she flipped her feet to do a turn.

“It requires coordination and control to become a graceful Hambo dancer,” I sneered in silence as I watch her. As if she heard my thoughts, she stopped.

She turned to me and said, “Oh yes he can dance! Pirouetting back and forth, he moves with grace. And with extreme precision, he makes a hambo turn so graceful even Gene Kelly would approve. The best timing I’ve seen in my lifetime.”

“From what you just did, that fancy footwork in the kitchen is The Stove Top Hambo.” I said loudly with a sniff.

“Oh Drake don’t be silly. You’ll see what I mean.. Here he comes now. Out of his way, and stay in the corner.”

*****

   “Today it is Stir Fried Chicken Liver in Bacon and Mushroom Sauce I will cook,” said the     Swedish Chef .

   “We need 300g chicken liver,strips of veal bacon,1/2 cup of chopped mushroom,1/2 cup     of diced onions, fried potatoes, 4 tbsp of butter, 1 tsp of dark soy sauce, 1/4 cup of           cooking cream, salt, pepper and sprinkle of dried oregano.”

Grandma Glasses and I listened carefully while he gives cooking instructions.

   “First I marinate chicken liver in soy sauce, salt, roasted garlic and herb seasoning and      set aside.”

Then suddenly he did a hambo turn as he puts a pan on the stove. Grandma Glasses looked at me and smiled.

   “Heat the pan, and when it is warm enough put the butter to melt until bubbly.”

Another hambo turn as reaches for the other ingredients. I am surprised to see him move without bumping into anything, so perfectly in such a small space for a big guy like the Swedish Chef.

    “Saute onions, bacon and mushroom and let it cook for 3 minutes.”

I was quick to notice another hambo turn as he takes the next ingredient.

     “Add the chicken liver and soy sauce. Sprinkle dried oregano and continue cooking in         medium heat for 3 minutes.”

He looked at us to check if we are listening. He did another hambo turn to reach for the cream.

    “Pour cream and let simmer for 2 minutes or until sauce thickens. Add salt and pepper        to  taste.”

Another hambo turn and he has salt and pepper in his hand.

“Oh I know good food when I smell one,” I whispered to Grandma Glasses.

“Quiet now Drake, this is the best part,” Grandma Glasses whispered back.

We stood still, only our eyes following the Swedish Chef as he makes his finale. This is like watching a movie on the big screen with the popcorn box almost empty.

    “Aha! Time to remove from heat and serve with fried potatoes or rice.”

The Swedish Chef said it in a loud voice I almost jumped. He takes a plate and scooped a big serving on it. And for his finale, he did a last hambo turn as he exits the kitchen and walked to the dining table with the plate.

Grandma Glasses smiled at me and gave me a pat on the head.

“Yes Drake, that is what we call The Stove Top Hambo.” I wagged my tail to agree as she walked away to follow the Swedish Chef.

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marinade chicken liver

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Saute onions, bacon and mushroom

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Add the chicken liver and soy sauce

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Pour cream and let simmer until sauce thickens

 

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Plate and serve

The Schnitzel

The Swedish Chef is suffereing from a very bad back ache today and had to rest and stay in the room. So we decided to order for in-room dining.  There will be no morning walks today.

SC : Good afternoon, I would like to order lunch.
Let’s start with the bread basket – croissant, muffins and ensaimada.

“And I want Wiener schnitzel with french fries.”

Room Service: “So sir you want pizza?”

SC: “No! not the pizza, the schintzel.”

Room Service : “Yes sir pizza.”

SC: “No! Not the pizza, the Schnitzel” bellowed the Swedish Chef in frustration.                 The Swedish chef’s Wifie leaned over and whispered, “Spell it out for them, S-C-H-N..”

SC: “No! Not pizza, the Schnitzel. No! not AND fries, but WITH Fries.” THe Swedish Chef rolled his eyes in exasperation.  “Can you please repeat our order so I know you got it right?”

The Swedish Chef patiently listened as the Room Service Operator repeats the order.   “Yes that seems correct. Thank you.” as he hangs up the phone with a sigh.

After a few seconds the phone rang and someone on the other line confirms our order. “Yes .. I ordered Weiner Schnitzel. You spelled it wrong on the menu as werner schnitzel, you know that don’t you? ”

“It should be Weiner Schnitzel. not skitsel. not schitchel. and definitely not pizza.”

Sniffing and scurrying back to my corner, I waited for that knock on the door. “Either it’s a schintzel or a pizza it will always look good in my bowl.” 

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Plate and Serve_Pork Kidney and Bacon in Cream Sauce

Today I went to the local market to buy fresh pork kidney. Let’s make this clear. I am on a diet. But no matter how I stick with my rules, the temptation of tasting good food still rules.

I was told by the Swedish Chef, this is one of his favorite offal recipes. You can also use other variety meats (beef,veal,lamb,pork,ox). Today I am tasked to execute and deliver the same quality of cooking to the table in twenty minutes. So with a sharp knife, a bowl and kitchen scissors I went through the preparation very carefully. No this is not for an episode of a MasterChef cooking show. It’s for tonight’s dinner and I only have twenty minutes to plate and serve Pork Kidney and Bacon in Cream Sauce

“Clean kidney” was the first instruction I was told. I used two pieces pork kidney, approximately 300 gms. It may sound simple, but requires accuracy and skill with the kitchen tools. It’s like doodling with a pen, but this time I used a knife. I peeled the white membrane on the outside, sliced and removed the white membrane inside. I gently poked using kitchen scissors to make sure every white tendon is cut and cleaned. Then I soaked the slices in salted water for thirty minutes, changed water and soaked again until water became clear. Next step is soaking the kidney slices in milk for two to three hours. The Swedish Chef said this will remove the remaining residue and kidney scent. I wondered how much patience is required of me with this recipe?

After three hours, I took the kidney out of the fridge. The slices looked pampered soaking in milk.  “Wash and drain again before slicing them into smaller pieces,”  said the Swedish Chef. ” But not too small or they become gummy, not unless you will cook them in lesser time.”

I stopped chopping the meat and stared in mid air trying to calculate in my mind  how cooking smaller pieces of meat makes them gummy and not tender. Now that is quite opposite with the method of cooking I am used to. But as good as a sous chef should be, I followed his advice.

“Score in crisscross pattern the smooth side of kidney slices and dice into smaller 1 inch pieces,” he called out his instructions from his side of the kitchen. Finally after the crisscrossing and slicing I have about 1 cup of prepared fresh kidney.

“Set aside kidney and let us prepare other ingredients. ” the Swedish Chef calling out the ingredients like we are checking a military roster.

“2 tbsp butter?” he asked.

“Yes Chef!”

“1 medium onion, finely chopped?” he checked.

“Yes Chef!”

“1/2 cup chopped bacon?” he bellowed.

“Yes Chef!”

“Salt and pepper to taste, half teaspoon of tarragon leaves, and half cup of cooking cream?” he echoed as I handed the last ingredients.

“Yes Chef!” I answered. Sheepishly I looked at the clock as I set my mind into my twenty minute task. “And my time starts..now.”

              “Heat skillet and melt butter. Saute onion and bacon for 3-5 min. Add the kidney                    and cook over low heat for another 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour                cream and continue cooking for another 5 minutes or until sauce thickens.                          Sprinkle tarragon leaves. Simmer over low heat for last 5 minutes, stirring                            occasionally to prevent curdling or overcooking. Turn off heat and plate. Do not                  overcook.Serve with rice, fried potatoes or toast.”

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I thought I heard myself giving a twenty-minute monologue to the stove. After the cooking, the Swedish Chef suggested, “Next time we cook sweetbread.”

“Trust the kitchen expert. He knows what he is talking about,” I said to myself.

And then a funny thought just hit me. “I wonder if free range herbivore dinosaur was also a good variety meat for the cavemen.”  Yep, Grandma Glasses and her bizarre ideas strikes again.

Köttfärslimpan lindad i Bacon

Normally he’s quiet, but today he burst out and said, “I will make another perfect dish!”

I don’t think I remember a day when there is not a perfect dish at all from the Swedish Chef. And from all the dishes we’ve plated, I have come to notice something– it’s all delicious. I wonder what he is cooking today?

” Köttfärslimpan lindad i Bacon! And I put parsley into the mix, with onions, breadcrumbs, egg and cream..” he continued savoring the thoughts of his well prepared dish. While I have not even started with the ingredients, he already has a vivid image of how it is going to look and taste.

“Then I will form the loaf of minced meat, and wrap it into the bacon, and then into the ugn* ( translation oven )”

I looked around to see if he was talking to someone else. There is no one around but me. So those unbounded thoughts on the next perfect dish must have been directed to me.

“Okay I need to pay attention here or I miss a thing,” said I to myself. Köttfärslimpan lindad i Bacon is Meatloaf wrapped in bacon.

“So make the mix, then add to the minced beef and make a loaf,” said the Swedish Chef quite contentedly.

From his kitchen I can almost hear everything coming alive. Those ingredients started transforming as soon as they touch each other in the mixing bowl. It has become an animated kitchen once again. I see Steely Knife chopping on the board,  Shiny Pan sliding on the stove, the Humongous Fridge welcoming the hand, Mincely New Zealand beef ready to be wrapped, and Strippy Bacon awaiting fusion with Earthy Mushroom slices. IMAG0166 IMAG0165

“Put mushrooms on top, then cover by bacon and put in 200 degrees oven for 45 min. Got that? ” said the Swedish Chef. I gave him a quick nod that I understood.IMAG0167

Köttfärslimpan lindad i Bacon

Köttfärslimpan lindad i Bacon

Köttfärslimpan lindad i Bacon

Köttfärslimpan lindad i Bacon

“Do I tie it or cover it with foil?” I asked.

“No no no! Use your hands and dump it in a baking dish.”

“Place it in a baking dish and bake in the oven, you mean?” I have to be very sure of the next step and not confuse dump into throwing out as refuse.

“No no no! Not in this kitchen. Dump in the bowl and into the oven. Humpf,” explained the Swedish Chef as he left the kitchen.

“Seasoning?” I called out.

“Salt and pepper. Nothing more. The parsley, bacon and mushrooms gives taste. Forty five minutes and it should be ready by midnight,”  he echoed back.

Forty five minutes? Did I hear him right this time? That’s almost an hour. Patience is another ingredient I will have to add to this dish.

I am not really mindful of time when the Swedish Chef is cooking. Everything goes too fast I don’t even notice time except the aroma of what is cooking. I think  it was after thirty minutes or so I think it was.

“Let me go and check how it looks. And I will make the mashed potatoes as potato burgers I think,” said the Swedish Chef.

“Ohhh the smell..I am hungrig!” I heard him say.

“Ten more minutes,” he said as he takes a last check in the oven. Now we are getting close to plating the perfect dish. I stood up and went to the kitchen to see how it’s going. That’s just enough time for me to go help and set the table too.

Köttfärslimpan lindad i Bacon

Köttfärslimpan lindad i Bacon

“Food done . With my new invention Köttfärslimpan lindad i Bacon, potato burgers and Tartare Cheese that is worth a big burp. Perfect!”

Köttfärslimpan lindad i Bacon

Köttfärslimpan lindad i Bacon

Now ain’t that something! I think I will call this the Swedish Chef’s Big Burp Meatloaf. A big serving for a very hungrig Swedish Chef.  

For now I park my pen and take my fork instead. Now do I still need to rewrite the recipe? Let me know and I’ll get back to my task. 

Escalope Florentine ala Carmen

Today I got a zipped email of what’s cooking in the Swedish Chef’s kitchen.  Veal steaks,  2 cups of spinach blanched, a cup of sliced button mushroom. ¼ cup of flour, cooking cream, butter, salt and pepper for seasoning, and chopped parsley.

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 “ Okay so tell me about it. Where’s the finished product?” I asked hoping to get his instructions right.

 “Well I made two portions, but I had it one sitting,” said the Swedish Chef.

Did I hear him right? Does that mean he finished all the steak and didn’t save any for me? And I am supposed to describe his recipe!  What and how can I describe a dish I haven’t even tried?

Oh well. Coming from the  Swedish Chef’s Kitchen, I am sure it was delicious. He did say he finished two portions, didn’t he?

Main ingredient is veal steaks, about  3 medium slices of veal steaks. Dredge the veal steaks lightly in flour. Heat skillet and drizzle virgin olive oil. Pan sear the veal for one minute on each side. IMAG0156A

While steaks are cooking, prepare the béchamel sauce. (Don’t ask me how many hands he used to cook the meat and make the sauce at the same time. I wasn’t surprise when he complimented himself saying, “I am a good cook.” I’ve seen him do his cooking in the kitchen, and I say he is fast. This dish took 5 minutes to prepare and 20 minutes in the oven, and a whole lot of time to spare for other things in between prepping and cooking time.) IMAG0157

For the béchamel sauce:  In small skillet,  heat the butter in medium heat. Stir in 1 tbsp flour,  pinch of salt, and dash of pepper and stir for about a minute until it becomes pasty. Pour  in cooking cream and continue stirring until it becomes thick consistency.  No onions but still tasted perfect!

In a baking pan or dish, arrange in layers the blanched spinach, veal and  mushroom.

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Pour béchamel sauce on top and sprinkle chopped parsley. Bake in oven 200C for 20 minutes.  Serve warm.

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Before we called it a day, I asked the Swedish Chef, “And what’s your closing statement for this dish? ” He just grinned and said, “Eat it from the top..and lick up the leftovers.”

And here is my followup request :  to include a zipped veal steak for me next time. Warm..very warm..