When the holidays drew near, there was a need to give the Nordic Food Lab a deep clean before the break. And the best way we know to clear out the fridges and freezer is to cook.
It is common in Denmark to have a julefrokost at one’s workplace – a ‘Christmas lunch’ with food, drink and good company that starts in the afternoon and often goes into the night. A Nordic Food Lab julefrokost was the perfect way to put our leftover ingredients and experiments to good use: by turning them into delicious dishes to be shared and enjoyed. And it would give us the welcome opportunity to celebrate the season together and to toast the good work we’ve accomplished in recent months.
Above all, it gave us a chance to spend a few days just cooking with and for each other.
Julius, a master’s student in Gastronomy and Health from Copenhagen University, has been working on smoking. He built a smoker out of an old closet and has been churning out a steady stream of duck, goose, venison, pig, and all manner of flesh and organ meats. He made us an appetiser – a reinterpretation, in crostini form, of liver and onions. Pâté of duck liver and heart and smoked garlic, onion jam with rhubarb vinegar and beet juice, smoked white onion and thyme.
Emil took care of the veggies. A chef de partie at Noma, he was with us at the lab for a month before heading off to Tokyo for a stint at Ryugin. Turnips cooked slowly in butter, carrots, brussels sprouts, pearl onions, with lots of fresh parsley. Sunchokes, given the same treatment, with black garlic and lemon thyme.
Nurdin was also with us for a month; he is an R&D chef with Raymond Blanc in London, a student of nutrition, and a supper club leader. He created a beet raviolo stuffed with broccoli purée and quail’s egg yolk, with blanched broccoli, toasted hazelnuts, shaved celery and hare consommé.
And what did I make? A dish of brined wild apples, green elderberry capers, and tarragon oil – the result of a few experiments with lacto-fermentation. It had quite a strong flavour on its own but worked well with the meats.
Ben was the mind behind the meat, creating venison rack roasted in an herb crumb; roasted reindeer marrow with angelica seeds, freeze-dried raspberries, and lemon thyme; fondant potatoes, and walnut cream.
And the unequivocal centrepiece of the meal was our take on the infamous turducken: a goose stuffed with a ptarmigan stuffed with a whole quince. Served with kale purée, lacto-fermented lingonberries, and a jus made from eleven different wild beasts. Its colours were very festive, and its splendour undeniably medieval. Could it be a Goosiguince? We have yet to settle on a name.
Jonas, our master’s student in Food Science and Technology from Copenhagen University, took charge of dessert. There were two: Frozen pumpkin seed pudding with dehydrated pumpkin and thyme dust, and Skyr mousse and verbena kombucha granité.
Jonas is working on kombuchas and this was the perfect outlet for the verbena, a particularly successful trial. He included some of our bee larvae granola for colour and texture. It was good, but we decided to make another without it, to focus on the stark whiteness of the creamy skyr and frozen kombucha, the contrast in mouthfeel as they melted together. We finished with a beaker of Kenyan coffee before the final clean.
We should really do this more often, rather than save it just for the holiday season.