Tag Archives: denmark

Seasons Change: Bœuf Bourguignon

I woke up this morning to the all too familiar dark grey clouds of a chilly autumn Nordic morning.  Yesterday was The Final Day of Summer, and if you weren’t outside enjoying it here in Copenhagen, you might’ve been the only one.   Every street I aimlessly roamed was filled with beaming moment-seizers, devouring ice cream cones and beers in as little clothing as humanly possible.  Last ditch effort at vitamin D absorption, no doubt.

Nørrebro

But alas, Copenhagen’s familiar face is back, and I imagine she’ll be sticking around awhile.  You may never catch me admitting this in public, but I’m pretty excited about fall.  Rainy days and grey mornings mean “hygge” to me, as much as I consciously long for sunshine when it’s absent.  They also mean finally getting things done that I put off in favor of basking in the sunshine all summer long, and dinner parties, and slow-cooked stews expelling delicious aromas that permeate your entire building.

During the summer I can’t bear the idea of eating warm things, and more importantly cooking warm things in an already hot kitchen.  But truth be told, I’m desperate to add them back to my meals by about mid-August.  I think this might be a body constitution thing – heavy and warm foods ultimately feel grounding for me (for you Ayurvedic Dosha fans out there, I’m indeed a textbook Kapha).  Conflicting with this need was the desire to have more sun, and so I strategically planned a trip to Seattle to visit family and old friends for the last two weeks of August in order to get an extension on my summer.  And extend my summer did, but what I also got was an extension on my wanton need for stew.

When seasons change I tend to have this pulsating need to follow suit.  While you’re lucky enough to not be in my head right now, I’ve already rearranged my entire apartment and organized my attic in my mind.  These are the sorts of things that happen when I become anxious, and feel the winds pick back up again – a typical reaction to seasons changing.  It’s at these moments that I subconsciously acknowledge that now is a good time to spend a day in my kitchen.  And what a better way to come back to earth than the earthy aromas of bœuf bourguignon?

I have always associated bœuf bourguignon with France.  Until this morning, I had actually never dared attempt it myself, sure that it would never match the expectations set while sitting in a 400 year old home in the Champagne region of France as my good friend’s husband – a chef – made a pot of it over a real fire in the chimney in a dutch oven that looked like it might’ve belonged to his great grandparents it was so used.  He let it simmer there for eight hours, during which we explored the region, caught up on each other’s lives over an old wooden farm table, played with their children, reminisced about the days working at Château de Nitray and about how long ago 21 years old feels now.  I remember thinking then that there was no way I’d ever be able to duplicate that moment, or those flavors, ever.

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But this weekend I was determined to try.  I spent my afternoon yesterday at one of my favorite Copenhagen places, Torvehallerne, absorbing all of the delectable things on display set out specifically to tempt every passer by.  I restrained from buying more figs, because I’ve eaten them already four times this week.  Already sure a stew was in my future, I eventually ended up at Kødbilen to see what was on order.  After a friendly conversation about the muscle fibers in the hind legs of a cow versus those in the front, I walked away with 2.5kg of grassfed Angus for 250kr and a plan to finally attempt the “impossible.”

While I was certainly not transported back to France, I have to admit that this stew served every purpose I intended it to.  Upon the first bite I felt my feet land back on the ground.  I (momentarily, at least) have stopped reorganizing and rearranging and have come back into the present, ready for the wind, rain, chilly mornings, and dark afternoons having coffee or wine over “hygge” (candles) with friends I never knew I was missing until I found them.

This recipe was inspired by Gordon Ramsay.

BŒUF BOURGUIGNON with MASHED CELERIAC

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 tsp rendered goose fat
  • 1kg Angus shoulder beef, cubed
  • 125g lardons (or thick slices of bacon)
  • 350g shallots, peeled and quartered
  • 250g whole chestnut mushrooms
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 bouquet garni (I used 4 leek leaves, 4 thyme sprigs, 5 bay leaves, an unpeeled carrot and some black peppercorns)
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 750ml Bourgogne
  • 600g celeriac, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • rosemary & thyme sprigs
  • 2 bay leaves
  • a couple pinches of cardamom
  • salt & pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 160 degrees (C).  Heat goose fat in a large dutch oven or other oven-proof casserole over medium heat.  Add the beef, seasoning with salt and pepper, turning until all sides are browned.  You may need to do this in multiple batches – I had to do it in three.  Once your first batches of meat are browned, remove from heat and strain over a bowl, reserving any drained juices.

Once the meat has finished and has been removed from the casserole, add lardons (bacon), shallots, mushrooms, garlic, and the bouquet garni.  Stir until everything is slightly softened and golden, and then add the tomato paste, tossing to coat.  Add the meat back to the mixture along with the drained juices.

Add the wine and about 100ml of water to the stew – the liquid should not cover the ingredients.  Bring to a boil and use a wooden spoon to scrape up the caramelized fats on the bottom of the casserole.  Cover the Dutch oven with a cartouche of aluminum foil (should fit the inside of the Dutch oven perfectly, leftovers trimmed) and place in the oven, cooking from 3-4 hours (meat should be very tender).

To make the mashed celeriac, heat the olive oil in a large and deep frying pan.  Add the cubed celeriac, seasoning generously with salt and pepper.  After about 5 minutes, add the thyme and rosemary, bay leaves, and cardamom, as well as 200 ml of water.  Turn heat to low, partially cover, and steam for 30 minutes on low heat.

Remove herb sprigs and bay leaves and mash the celeriac with a potato masher and finish with a dash of olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Spoon the bœuf bourguignon into bowls and add a spoonful of mashed celeriac on top.

Serves 4-6

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Lagkagehuset

This is me pretty much every single time I walk past the Lagkagehuset by my office:

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The Danish Diabetes Bomb

The Danish Diabetes Bomb

Today in the Berlingske – one of the many reputable newspapers here in Denmark – there are two separate articles that attempt to address the issue of some recently released statistics that suggest that, by 2025, the number of Danes diagnosed with diabetes will have doubled from its current mark of 300.000 people, to 600.000.  The big concern everyone is sounding the bells about, is that the health administration has not currently allocated enough money to properly care for this inevitable rise in diabetics over the next 12 years.

Articles like this infuriate me for a variety of reasons.  First, and probably most notably, the blanket statement that the government should prepare for a diabetes “bomb” by 2025 by boosting the budget today is totally one-dimensional and reactive.  Has it occurred to anyone that we might use the current statistic (which states that the number of diabetes has doubled in the past ten years) to change our behavior now, and instead prevent the number from continuing to rise?

Diabetes is one of those diseases that is 100% caused by lifestyle.  You can argue this point with me until the cows come home and I will still stand by this fact.  If you have Type 2 diabetes, you make up 90% of all diabetic diagnoses, and your lifestyle and diet are what caused it.  You may have been genetically predisposed to the disease because of your parent’s diet, but your lifestyle is what pushed you over the edge.  If you have Type 1 diabetes, this is a genetic disorder, but the science of epigenetics (which, by the way, still hasn’t been added to my computer’s dictionary it’s so new) makes a clear case that even here, with a healthy lifestyle and a diet, anything you might have otherwise been genetically predisposed to, can be reversed (to clarify, the disposition can be reversed, not the disease itself, thus preventing the disease from occurring in later generations).  Look it up if you don’t believe me.  In fact, look it up even if you do.

Before I moved to Denmark, one could claim I lived in a hole that we will call New York City.  My closest friends and allies were either in the health industry, or actively involved in it, and we all got off on talking about body chemistry, physiology, spiritual energy, lifestyle, real food…  I’m not joking when I say that it was, and still is, rare to go to a party with these people where one of those topics does not come up, and then proceeds to get discussed ad nauseum for the next three hours.  I will also be totally honest that this fact is one of the biggest among many reasons why I love my friends so much.  They aren’t just interested in maintaining what works and passively listening to the media promote fad diets that serve as an easy button but ultimately never work – they are interested in challenging their threshold of what it means to be healthy, and finding out if it’s possible to feel even better than they do right now, in this very moment.

So suffice it to say, I’m still on the hunt for my crowd in Denmark who is willing to entertain a conversation about sugar, the definition of “healthy” food and what this all means for your body.  I’m feeling pretty thankful that my crossfit friends seem to be totally on board with the topic, so I’m obviously super jazzed about spending more time with these people.  Just last Friday we spent two hours talking about the negative effects of grain and sugar on the body, how that effects your genes if you’re sensitive to it, inflammation and what it means, how certain types of exercises can actually influence the way your cells behave…to sum up, I think I’ve found my kindred spirits of the Danish variety.  🙂

But alas, I digress, as I am wont to do.  I simply do not believe that no one in this 12-party Danish political system has come up with the brilliant idea of attempting to reverse reversible diseases via education, knowledge, and access to healthy foods so that the government doesn’t have to keep paying for sick people who wouldn’t get sick in the first place if they knew better, or their parents knew better (how’s that for a run-on?).  I know in the past the most prominent and minimally successful suggestion has been to add taxes to foods that are unhealthy (and we saw how long that lasted before everyone figured out people were just making more trips to Germany for their Haribo fix), but I also wonder if the gains from those taxes were then directed to caring for the very same people who ate the foods that made them sick in the first place.  I honestly doubt it.  At least not directly.

The sad truth is that I can almost expect this sort of reaction from an enormous, capitalistic society like the US, where not just the medical system and insurance companies, but also the agricultural and food industries, rely heavily on people staying sick and addicted to food that is slowly killing them (doesn’t make it right, but unfortunately this is the cold, hard truth).  But when the relationship is [supposedly] directly from people to government, and back again, as it is in Denmark, I believe we should expect more.

Either way, we cannot continue to live in an ignorant world where we blindly consume sugar and cake and candy and soda and then point our fingers at the government to support us when our bodies finally revolt and become diabetic (or develop any other dietary/lifestyle influenced disease).  BUT, in a welfare state like Denmark, we do have the power (and the money) to instead allocate energy and funds toward education, so that people might eventually understand how to live, and then maybe also aspire to maintain, a healthier lifestyle.

And just like that, BOOM, no more diabetes bomb.

(Oh, and apropos, it seems efforts toward becoming healthy and better educated can alter previously negative forecasts with other things too, like Dementia – glad to see Denmark was a part of this study, maybe there’s hope yet.)

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