The rutabaga's nickname is "Swede," so what it's doing in the soup at the Sons of Norway is a bit of a mystery.
Don't let this big, ugly vegetable often lumped with turnips and parsnips in the produce section at the grocery store discourage you. Rutabaga is delicious mashed with just about any other root vegetable along with plenty of butter. The waxy exterior is easily removed with a very sharp knife.
We didn't have rutabaga at our house, so I was an adult before I ever tried it. My introduction was at John and Sylvia Hove's table many years ago. Sylvia made a wicked good lapskaus, a Norwegian meat and vegetable stew.
My second taste of this sturdy root was in a class given by my French cooking teacher, Mary Helen DeLong, called Thanksgiving in the French Manner. The dish was a mélange of equal parts of mashed rutabaga and sweet potatoes with lots of butter.
And now I have sampled a delicious Cream of Rutabaga Soup at the Sons of Norway.
Created by their chef, Phil Hokanson, who also had his hand in the Rømmegrøt Pie I wrote about, it is a fine addition to my soup recipe collection and to the lunches at the SON club.
Phil, a native of Warroad, Minn., moved to Bemidji with his family where they operated a resort. It was there that he first started cooking. Later, his family moved to Moorhead, where he graduated from high school. He then entered the chef training program at Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Moorhead.
He's had a lot of experience, including opening a restaurant with his brother in Montana and working as a chef at the IBM plant in Rochester, Minn. He came to Fargo's Sons of Norway in 2008.
Although he hadn't had a lot of experience cooking Norwegian recipes, he likes to try new dishes, and making soups is his favorite part of cooking.
Phil's Cream of Rutabaga Soup
2 to 3 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, diced
4 cups good chicken stock
2 to 3 heaping cups chopped rutabaga
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and white pepper, to taste
Sauté the onion in butter until softened. Add carrot and cook for about five minutes. Pour in chicken stock and add rutabaga. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until rutabaga is tender.
Uncover soup. Using a slotted spoon, mash up some of the rutabaga, leaving some whole pieces for texture. Add milk and cream. and season to taste. Heat through. Serves 6 to 8.
If soup seems too thin, make a slurry with a few tablespoons of flour dissolved in ½ cup of milk and add it into the soup, stirring to combine. Let soup simmer again for about five minutes to cook the flour.
Readers can reach Forum food columnist Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at firstname.lastname@example.org