Two recipes to fill you with warmth and happiness
Hygge is a Danish word that is hard to say and even harder to define. At its most basic, hygge (pronounced hue-guh) embodies the concept of coziness. But it is so much more than that. Hygge is sitting by the fire, wrapped in your favorite blanket, next to your best friend while the snow blows outside. Hygge is sitting with friends in a café, lingering over lattes and pastries. Hygge is taking care of yourself with healthy foods, plenty of sleep and time with loved ones.
Maine winters, while not for the faint of heart, offer us the unique opportunity to slow our lives down and live in the moment, to savor the simple pleasures of food and shelter from the elements. Like the Danes, Mainers have a leg up on embracing the true meaning of hygge.
In the spirit of hygge, this month’s recipes feature comfort food that nourishes the body while warming the spirit.
Our first recipe is for a rösti (pronounced reursch-ti), a dish that originated in Switzerland and has spread around the globe. There is no definitive rösti recipe, but the basics are grated potatoes and butter or duck or goose fat. Röstis are like hash brown cakes and, made properly, are a thing of culinary beauty.
MUSHROOM & ONION RÖSTI
Here is my take on a Mushroom and Onion Rösti. I like to top mine with a fried egg and serve with a colorful slaw of red cabbage, white cabbage, carrots and apples.
3 medium russet potatoes, parboiled and chilled overnight
1/2 large yellow onion, sliced thin
5 ounces button or cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 eggs (optional)
Grate chilled potatoes on the largest hole of a hand grater or use a food processor (yield 4-5 cups).
Heat a 10-inch cast iron or non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add one tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Sauté onions and mushrooms until onion is translucent and beginning to caramelize, about 10 minutes. Add garlic with one minute remaining. Set aside.
Wipe skillet out and add remaining butter and olive oil and set over medium-high heat. When skillet is very hot, add half the grated potatoes in an even layer, pressing down with a spatula.
Add the onion, mushroom, garlic mixture in an even layer on top of the potatoes. Then cover with the remaining grated potatoes. Press down with spatula. Cook until bottom is golden brown, about 8 minutes.
Place heatproof plate on top of skillet and turn rösti onto plate, cooked side up. Slide the rösti back into the skillet, cooked side up and continue to cook the bottom side, another 8-10 minutes, until desired golden brown (I like mine very dark and crispy.)
Serve rösti, as is, with salad. Or divide into four portions and top each with a fried egg.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH, CARROT & ROASTED GARLIC SOUP
This next recipe for Butternut Squash, Carrot and Roasted Garlic Soup is the definition of Maine hygge. All the key ingredients—squash, carrots and garlic—come from my garden. I make this soup in huge batches and freeze it to enjoy all winter long. It is hearty, satisfying and full of wholesome ingredients. Serve it with crusty bread and a salad of roasted beets and pomegranate seeds drizzled with olive oil and a splash of lime juice. Toast with a local craft beer and you’re in hygge heaven!
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, diced (about 3-4 cups)
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
6 large carrots, trimmed, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large onion, diced
1 large head of garlic (remove the loose papery layers, trim the top 1/4-inch off the head, and drizzle the exposed cloves with olive oil)
5 cups vegetable or chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Wrap the oiled head of garlic tightly in aluminum foil, roast in oven for about 30 minutes, until cloves are browned and very soft. Set aside to cool.
When cooled, squeeze cloves into a small bowl and mix into a smooth paste. (Note: Roast an extra head of garlic and spread the paste on warm bread to accompany your soup.)
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Toss diced squash with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread squash in a single layer on baking sheet and bake until fork tender, 20-30 minutes. Set aside to cool.
In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat and cook onion and carrots until onion is translucent, 8-10 minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook until carrots are fork tender, about 10-12 minutes. Cool the onion and carrot mixture to room temperature.
Blend all of the ingredients, including garlic paste, in batches with some of the cooking stock in food processor or blender and place in a large bowl. Add additional stock if soup to too thick.
Adjust seasoning and enjoy as is or garnish with a dollop of sour cream, Greek yogurt or scallions.
Candace Karu makes her living writing about food, fitness and travel. She lives near the ocean in an old farmhouse with two ill-behaved dogs and two hard-working barn cats. Follow her on Instagram: @candacekaru or at www.candacekaru.com.