Sunday, October 4, 2015

Dining-In: A Culinary Tour of America-Jamestown, North Dakota

The Location: Jamestown, North Dakota
2013 population: 15,440; 92.3% white, 2.4% Hispanic. Per capita income: $26,529.
Jamestown is the 9th largest city in North Dakota. It was built in 1872, just after the Northern Pacific Railroad added a  new section to the Northern Transcontinental line. The same year Jamestown was built, the US Army built Fort Seward nearby. Their sole purpose was to protect the area where the railroad crossed over the James River. The fort was decommissioned in 1877, but the city continued to thrive. The Roman Catholic Diocese was established in Jamestown on November 10, 1889.

Jamestown's economy is based on manufacturing, though they have several attractions for tourists as well. They have two golf courses, an arts center, and the Jamestown Resevoir and Jamestown Dam created artificial lakes that attract a lot of fishermen and women, as well as water sports enthusiasts. Jamestown has two claims to fame: It is the hometown of American author Louis L'Amour. There is a walking tour one can take to retrace his steps. Jamestown is also home to the World's Largest Buffalo Monument.

While researching cities in North Dakota, I came across this tourist trap attraction and knew this was the city I had to use. I am a sucker for this sort of thing. There's just something so awesome about these sorts of attractions. This part of North Dakota, of course, had been home to a lot of buffalo, and still is, so it's an appropriate tribute.

Along with buffalo, prior to American and European settlers claiming the land, this territory had been home to the Crow, Sioux, and Blackfeet tribes. They still have a presence in the state, though much smaller now.

The Food: Ovnsstekt Torsk Med Sitron(Lemon-Baked Cod), Lefse, and Rice Pudding
What in the world are those foods, you may be asking yourself. And what culture are they from? The answer to the culture: Norwegian. What are they? You'll find out! 

As of 2009, North Dakota's population is 30.8% Norwegian American. That makes North Dakota the state with the most Norwegian Americans in the entire nation, even more than Minnesota! Most Norwegian settlers came to the area between 1870 and 1920. They have a long and well-established history here. Because of this, and because of the fact that I can't bring myself to try buffalo, I had to try out some of the well-known Norwegian dishes I've never had before. 

Ovnsstekt Torsk Med Sitron(Lemon-Baked Cod):
Cod is a fish I tend to eat only in fish-and-chip form. I tried to get my hands on some of the fish native to North Dakota, like pike or walleye, but it's pretty much impossible to find here in Seattle. While researching Norwegian entrees, I came across this cod recipe and it was pretty different from how I've ever had it prepared before, so I chose it. The recipe is from the internet, so I will provide the link in the sources at the end of this post. I can't copy and paste it because the formatting is too different to deal with, but I'll talk you through what I did.

Basically, you need a quarter of a pound of cod per person, skin and bones removed. You mix lemon juice and melted butter and brush that over the fish. The breading is simply flour, salt, and pepper, and you dredge both sides of the fish in it. Place the fish in a baking pan and drizzle any remaining lemon-butter over it and top with paprika. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until cooked through and fish starts to pull apart. Serve with lemon slices.

This is an incredibly simple way to prepare fish. Because the cod is something I'm so used to in fish-and-chip form, it was odd to eat it this way. I think of the fish I've prepared so far this year, this was the "fishiest". It needed a lot of lemon, but the salt and pepper from the breading was definitely enough to season it. I can see now why people tend to eat this fish with vinegar or tartar sauce, it needs something equally strong to hold up against the flavor of the fish. It also smelled the "fishiest" too, but that's what scented candles are for, right?! I don't sound like I'm selling this to you very well, do I? Let's just say, if you are a cod fan, you'll love this recipe!

Lefse: Potato Flatbread
Lefse is basically a cross between a mashed potato pancake and a flour tortilla. Literally, that's how it's made, with mashed potatoes and flour, and rolled thin and fried like a flour tortilla. You are supposed to use a special rolling pin with little squares etched in it to get the texture of the lefse just right. And you're supposed to use a special stick for picking it up, carrying it to the griddle, and turning it. I had none of this, and they are very expensive to buy for just one time. I originally opted out of making lefse because of this and had chosen a different potato recipe to use, but I made a last-minute decision to make lefse anyway because the other recipe didn't appeal. Lefse is pretty much the most well-known recipe I can think of when it comes to Norwegian food and I am glad that I made it. I decided to try it out anyway, without any of the proper equipment, and it might be a travesty, but I'd do it anyway. Fortunately, I was struck with inspiration right as I was about to start rolling the lefse. I have a towel that has squares in it and with that and some masking tape, my rolling pin was transformed into a rudimentary lefse pin!
You have no idea how proud I was of this! If you have a towel like this, I recommend rigging something like this up instead of spending major dollars on a special pin, unless you make lefse a lot. Then the actual pin might be worth it. The main thing to keep in mind is because of how the towel is rolled over the pin, there's one part that sticks out, so you can't really roll it exactly as you would a rolling pin. You sort of have to roll it back and forth halfway. But it still works.

I also used the rolling pin to transport the dough from the board to the pan and I used a fish spatula to turn it. No special stick needed. I'm pretty proud of how these turned out, though I've never had lefse before, so I can't compare it to the authentic kind. My recipe comes from The Frugal Gourmet's cookbook called "The Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors," and I will write out the recipe for you. I'll write it out as-is, but note that I made a half batch and it turned out just fine.

2 1/2 lb. russet potatoes, peeled and cut in half
2 Tbsp. butter, room temperature
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp. salt
2 cups all-purpose flour plus additional flour for rolling and dusting

Boil the potatoes until tender. Drain them well, return them to the pot, and stir over low heat, a few minutes, to dry the potatoes, being careful not to brown them.
Mash the potatoes, using a potato ricer(I don't have a ricer anymore and used a masher and it was fine), in a heavy-duty electric mixer bowl. Add the remaining ingredients, except for the flour for rolling and dusting, and mix well. Blend together to form a nonsticky dough. Knead and form into a smooth log. Divide it into 24 pieces. When you are ready to prepare the lefse, roll each into an 8"-10" circle. Turn the lefse as you roll it and keep it well coated with flour to prevent sticking. The dough is soft, but try to use as little flour as possible.
Preheat the electric griddle or frying pan to 375 degrees, or use a griddle or frying pan over medium heat. Lightly grease it with oil.
Shake excess flour off each circle of lefse and place it in the pan. It will start to bubble; cook until the bubbles are lightly browned, about 1 1/2 minutes. With a spatula, turn and cook the other side. Stack the lefse on a wire rack as they are cooked, or wrap them in foil and keep warm in a 200 degree oven.
They can be frozen and quickly reheated in the frying pan or on the griddle. Makes 24.

Once they were finished, I buttered one side and rolled them up. A couple I tried plain, and a couple I tried sprinkled lightly with sugar and cinnamon and then sprinkled with lemon juice before wrapping them up. I liked the sweetened ones better, I think. The lemon juice worked really well with the sugar and cinnamon and I highly recommend trying it that way! This was one of the most fun things I've made for this blog. I think it was because of the obstacles I had to overcome with the rolling pin. It's fun to come up with ways to make something happen without the proper equipment.

Rice Pudding:
This meal called for dessert, and rice pudding just seemed like the thing to make. I had made rice a couple days earlier and purposely made extra for this. I had a couple recipes, but I pretty much turned it into my own, so I'll just write it out. Sorry, this is one of those recipes without real measurements...

Cooked rice
Dried sweetened cranberries
Vanilla extract
Almond extract
Orange blossom extract
Unsweetened applesauce
Zest of one lemon

Everything gets placed in a large saucepan and heated up. Use a spoon to break apart clumps of rice. Just cook the heck out of it and keep adding more milk as the rice thickens. You can add sugar if you want and you can season it however you like. I basically scrounged through my spice rack and baking shelf and threw in whatever sounded good.

I tried mine hot last night, but it makes a ton so I will try it out today cold. I am unsure how I feel about this one. I think the lemon zest was actually too much. I should have left that out. And possibly the applesauce. I think that sort of messed up the texture. I'm not used to eating sweet rice, except in sushi-format, and that's not sweet sweet, so this was something my taste buds were not used to. I think if I'd been raised on rice pudding, it would have been awesome, but for me, it'll take a few more tries before my taste buds and mouth get used to the taste and texture of it. I was shocked, though, at how simple it was to prepare this. It's a great way to use up leftover rice.

What stands out to me most about these foods, besides the fact that they were rather monochromatic, hence the green beans, was the simplicity of the ingredients. The lefse was complicated to prepare, but the rice pudding and fish were not. But all three recipes had a minimal amount of ingredients and that allowed the main ingredient in them to shine. It's like letting the food speak for itself, and truly honoring the ingredient for what it is. I don't know enough about Norwegian food to say if that's how all of their recipes are, or if I just lucked out with these three, but there was something very pure about this meal. Fish, potato, rice. Hearty and filling. No frills, just presented in a way that allows you to truly appreciate them. I really liked it! It makes me want to explore this culture and cuisine more.

Baked Cod Recipe

City History

City Stats

City Map

Buffalo Statue Picture

City Pic

Native American History


1 comment:

  1. Monocromatic is very Norwegian, yes. And you made Lefse! :D The cod actually sounds pretty good to me, and I just don't do fish beyond fish and chips. Guess I might be a little Norwegian after all. ;)