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Published December 04, 2013, 02:23 PM

The Great Indoors: Briggs offers tips for finding your inner Norwegian

For the next couple of weeks on “The Great Indoors,” I’m doing a little cultural immersion.

By: Tracy Briggs, INFORUM

For the next couple of weeks on “The Great Indoors,” I’m doing a little cultural immersion.

I’ve lived in this part of the country most of my life, but sometimes I feel like a fish out of water. My heritage is about 75 percent British. Perhaps that English-Scottish-Irish blood explains my pasty complexion and obsession with “Downton Abbey.”

The largest ancestral groups in North Dakota sand Minnesota are German and Norwegian. About 75 percent of North Dakotans and 55 percent of Minnesotans claim one or both of those backgrounds.

I wrote in September about a German cultural celebration at the Rhineland dinner in Moorhead. Monika Fredin showed me how to make a Marmorkuchen, a marbled cake that would be a nice treat for Christmas. But for the next two weeks, we turn our attention to a Norwegian Christmas.

My Norwegian-American friends claim it wouldn’t be Christmas without lefse. While they gush about the delights of eating it every year at Grandma’s house, I have to admit, I don’t really get it. It’s OK, I suppose, but nothing to write back to Oslo about. I’m told that with enough butter it’s out-of-this-world good, but can’t we say that about nearly everything? (Except lutefisk. In my humble opinion, there isn’t enough butter in Wisconsin to choke down that stuff).

Norwegians also say the key with lefse is to eat it fresh off the griddle while it’s still warm.

Fortunately, the nice folks at the Fargo Public Library are teaching the art of lefse making. A couple of times a year, including tonight, they host free lefse-making classes. Preregistration is required so give them a call at (701) 241-1492 if you’d like to attend.

I caught up with Amanda Hansen, who learned as a seventh-grader to make lefse from her grandmother, to compile some tips for us non-Norwegians out there.

Lefse 101

• The best equipment makes lefse making so much easier, don’tcha know?

First, a non-stick lefse griddle is important. Regular pancake griddles sometimes don’t get hot enough, and the lip around the outside gets in the way when you’re trying to turn the dough with the lefse stick.

Speaking of the lefse stick, it’s a necessity. It’s almost impossible to turn the lefse with a spatula without making a big mess. The lefse stick doesn’t need to be fancy. It looks a little like those paint stirring sticks they give you at the hardware store. Utilitarian and gets the job done – just like a Norwegian.

There’s a reason Norwegians cover their rolling pins with what looks like a sweat sock. Apparently, the cover helps the dough not stick to the pin.

And finally, you should also invest in a good ricer. It’s best to put the boiled potatoes through a ricer to make sure the consistency is perfect.

Now if you’re thinking, “Heck I have a some old paint sticks and sweat socks! I’m good to go!” Well, certainly give it a try. It might work. But to avoid getting really crabby, think about buying a lefse-making kit at Creative Kitchen, online, or at some discount stores.

• While Norwegians are sturdy people, their lefse dough is not.

After mixing and chilling the dough, Hansen let me try to roll it out. I rolled with gusto and found that tender little potato glob tore apart before my eyes. Hansen was patient, and we tried again. The key is to be gentle and roll it out to an almost paper thin texture.

• You should only turn the lefse once.

Apparently, if you fuss with the lefse too much, it’ll get tough – just like a Norwegian.

• There’s a reason this tradition endures.

As Hansen and I waited for the lefse to cook, we fell into a comfortable conversation. There’s something very relaxing about making the potatoes, rolling the dough and gently turning the lefse. You can see how generations of Norwegians have enjoyed the process while spending time with loved ones.

• Don’t argue with a Norwegian about what to put on his/her lefse.

Norwegians take lefse very seriously. Lefse is their canvas, and they are the culinary artists.

Of course, butter is No. 1. Some would argue that lefse is merely the vehicle with which to consume the butter

Sugar, brown sugar and jelly are also popular toppings. However, some like their lefse savory, wrapping it around ham and eggs, beef and cheese, or lutefisk.

I refuse to endorse that last one. I will never be Norwegian enough.

Basic Lefse recipe

8 cups red potatoes, boiled and riced

1 cup melted butter

½ cup whipping cream

1 tablespoon salt

1 1/3 cups flour (divided)

Mix and cool first four ingredients. Split up mixture into 2 cup portions and add 2/3 cup of flour per section.

Form rolls out of portions and cut the roll into smaller pieces. These smaller pieces will be what you roll out, so make them smaller if you’re a beginner and larger if you’re a pro. Roll out dough pieces on covered pastry board with grooved rolling pin covered with stocking. Keep rolling surfaces well floured.

Grill at approximately 450 degrees. Makes about 36 pieces of lefse.

Watch ‘The Great Indoors’ with Tracy Briggs every Thursday on www.InforumTV.com