Most people hold tight to their families’ holiday traditions, especially when it comes to food. Most of us have that one recipe that just can’t be modified, in even the smallest way. Here Norwegian chefs reveal their favorite holiday food traditions.
Christmas is just around the corner! Christmas dinners are an important part of the Norwegian Christmas tradition, which mean a busy time for restaurants and chefs (at least under normal conditions). Although there are many restrictions this year due to the corona pandemic, many restaurants in Western Norway offer traditional Christmas dinners in safe surroundings.
But how do chefs actually celebrate Christmas themselves? Do they cook at home after cooking pork a hundred times in their restaurant, or do they eat something completely different? Western Norway’s top chefs reveal their Christmas food traditions.
Christmas is all about “la faiglia” for Sven Erik Renaa
Sven Erik Renaa, chef at and owner of the 2 stars Michelin restaurant Re-Naa, Lou Lou cocktail bar and Renaa Express in Stavanger says that Christmas is all about “la famiglia”. Christmas is family time for most people and for the Renaa family it’s no exception. He loves to gather family and friends and prefers to make the Christmas dinner himself. Sven Erik is generous with the menu and since he has a large family, it contains something for everybody. He makes roast duck with accessories and he makes chops that are both smoked and unsmoked served together with Vossakorv (sausages from Voss). Renaa does not forget his Italian heritage and the passatelli soup is a must, often added with white truffle.
Renaa has also some inside tips on how to make Christmas food tase even better! If you serve ribs for Christmas, the most important thing is to use the best pig you can get hold of. It should be fresh and must not have been vacuum packed. Keep your local butcher store alive and buy it from them. When it comes to pinnekjøtt (based on lamb ribs) it must be watered out well. “Spend lot of time doing this,” he emphasizes. Otherwise, Sven Erik swears to making his own side dishes. Christmas is special and earns that we spend a little extra time and not buy ready-made dishes.
Different family traditions ended up in lobster and champagne
Ørjan Johannessen is winner of Bocuse d’Or 2015 and chef at Bekkjarvik Gjestgiveri. For Christmas, the whole family gathers – wife Cecile and daughter Leah Mirambelle, Ørjan’s mother, father, sister and brother with brothers-in-law and parents-in-law.
On Christmas Eve, the Johannessen family has a tradition of eating lobster – fished in season by Ørjan’s father and served with Champagne. The Johannessen family is a mixture between people from the west, from the east – and a little Danish. No wonder he makes chops with turnip puree, sauerkraut, fat and potato ribs with red cabbage, small potatoes glazed in caramel and butter and rib sauce. He also serves coarse pork sausages.
And for dessert: Rice a la mande with cherry sauce and Queen Maud pudding.
Ørjan usually starts preparing the dinner after breakfast starting with the dishes that need longest time (ribs and chops). However, much of the dinner is made before Christmas eve, for example red cabbage, Queen Maud pudding, rice porridge, salting of the ribs and peeling off turnips and potatoes.
The rest of the day is just about having a good time and resting before the guests arrive at 5 pm.
On the first day of Christmas, the regular Christmas cod served with roe, liver and stirred butter is usually on the menu. He drives out to some fishing friends and picks up cod the same day. The second day of Christmas is Ørjan and Cecile’s Christmas brunch. “Leftovers” from the days before are collected and Ørjan makes Pâté a croute of ribs, knuckles, pistachios and lots of other goodies.
Good ingredients often make dinner better. Ørjan’s tip is to find a good pork or chops, and juicy turnips. He recommends calculating sufficient time on the rib so that it has time to rest, preferably 4 hours if possible.
Buy meat from a local farmer is best tip from Ronny Kolvik
Bro restaurant in Ålesund is owned by chef Ronny Kolvik and is listed in the White Guide Nordic.
Ronny teams up with his family and in-laws when he is going to celebrate Christmas. He has tested steamed chops in dark beer in his grill, but usually there is traditional healthy Christmas food on the table on Christmas Eve. And typical of Sunnmøre, it should be made fully sufficient.
The Kolvik family does not settle for pork only. It should also be pork ribs, sauerkraut, red cabbage, cabbage radish paste, Danish pork sausage, vossakorv and local tenderloin. For dessert, a good homemade caramel pudding, or fresh cloudberry cream.
Ronny Kolvik’s best tip for giving the Christmas dinner an extra good taste is to buy meat from a local farmer, or pay what it costs to buy good quality meat on the special day of the year. It makes a big difference! He also suggests making your own sauerkraut and red cabbage in advance. In the red cabbage he adds goodies like dried figs, raisins, apricots, anise, orange peel, cloves, black currants and currants.
It is still mum who has made the Christmas dinner when Kristian leaves Bergen and returns to his childhood home in Asker. On Christmas Eve, the family makes both chops and pork ribs, since his grandmother does not eat lamb, while his father cannot eat anything but chops. Therefore, his mother has to double up. This is another proof of how deep the traditions are. For Kristian, Christmas means to indulge in love and coziness.
Norwegian Chefs Reveal Their Favorite Holiday Food Traditions, is based on a press release from Mynewsdesk.
Feature image (on top): Photo: Opplysningskontoret for egg og kjøtt