Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden each have their own distinct home cooking styles, which Darra Goldstein uncovers in Fire and Ice.
After cooking in Gothenburg for a decade, chef Michael Björklund returned to his native Åland Islands to open Smakbyn, a gorgeous restaurant that showcases the foods of Åland and the Nordic region with a menu inspired by home cooking rather than modernist technique. Though Michael’s food is all about eating locally, he’s ultimately more interested in living in harmony with the seasons and the environment and allowing those forces to drive his creativity. Besides preserving all sorts of indigenous plants like sea buckthorn, he smokes his own fish and distills brandy from the famed Åland apples, cleverly named Ålvados.
These short ribs are inspired by one of Michael’s recipes from the cookbook Mat så in i Norden (Food from the Nordic Lands). While Michael suggests braising lamb shanks in mead or wheat beer, I prefer using more manageable short ribs, since American lamb shanks tend to be enormous. I add honey to recall the flavor of mead. The ribs cook up meltingly tender, with the perfect degree of sweetness. Serve them with potatoes or steamed barley.
NOTE: Since short ribs are fatty, I like to make this dish the day before and let it cool to room temperature, then refrigerate it overnight. The next day you can easily lift off all of the fat that has risen to the surface. Reheat the stew gently at 300°F for an hour or so.
- Preheat the oven to 300°F. Heat the oil in a 6-quart braising pan with a lid over medium heat. Rub the short ribs all over with salt and pepper. Place them in the pan and sear until brown, about 2 minutes on each side. With tongs, transfer the short ribs to a plate and pour off all of the fat from the pan.
- Remove the outer papery skin from the head of garlic and cut about 1⁄2 inch off the top to reveal the cloves.
- Return the short ribs to the pan and nestle the head of garlic, cut side up, among them. Strew the onions and carrots among the meat, and stick the thyme and parsley sprigs into any nooks.
- Whisk together the honey and beer in a bowl and pour the mixture over the meat and vegetables (it won’t cover them). Cover the pan tightly with the lid and bake for 2 hours.
- Raise the oven temperature to 400°F and continue to bake the meat until it is very tender and the liquid has turned slightly syrupy, about 45 minutes more.
- Blot or skim off as much fat as you can. I like to serve the ribs home-style, right from the pan, but you can also transfer the meat and vegetables to a deep serving bowl. Garnish with the minced parsley and serve hot.
Reprinted with permission from Fire + Ice: Classic Nordic Cooking, by Darra Goldstein, copyright © 2015, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.