Fairfax-Foodie Holiday Part 1 – We <3 Lefse

It’s a new year and a new day! One of my resolutions is to restart this blog because even though I took a temporary break to finish my dissertation, I’m constantly thinking about all the foodie fun that I want to share with you (yes! I passed my defense. Now I’m Dr. Fairfax Foodie :). 2017 was a mixed bag for many reasons, but I married Mr. Foodie and finished my diss, so all in all a good one for us. We also just returned from a whirlwind trip to visit family in California, North Dakota, and Minnesota. We slept in five different beds in two weeks, but I am so glad that we took this trip. Some of our family couldn’t come to the wedding, so we got to visit them and celebrate Christmas with them. I got to introduce Mr. Foodie, for the first time, to both my sets of grandparents and teach him about some of our wacky midwestern ways. And he was happy to introduce me to his extended family in the beautiful city of San Francisco.

As you might expect, we had a lot of foodie adventures on this vacation. One of the most memorable was making lefse with my maternal grandmother. She taught me this recipe many years ago and I’ve made it a handful of times, but not for many years. She has a special round griddle and lefse stick, but you can use any griddle that gets very hot and a rolling pin in lieu of the stick for transferring the lefse to the griddle. Lefse is basically a potato tortilla which is best eaten warm, spread with butter and sugar and rolled up like a taquito. Lefse is a Norwegian dish, brought to America by ancestors like mine. It used to be fairly common fare, but most of the people I know eat it mainly around Christmas time. You can find pre-made lefse in stores throughout the midwest, but homemade and warm off the griddle is the best.

Traditionally lefse is made with cold, leftover mashed potatoes (with cream and butter incorporated) mixed with flour and a little sugar, although many make them with cold instant mashed potatoes instead to save on time and to achieve a more consistent dough. The amount of flour, sugar, and salt added depends on how much mashed potatoes you have. Budget around 1 Tablespoon each of salt and sugar, and 2-3 cups of flour for 10 lbs of potatoes. The dough should come together, but be a little tacky because you’ll use additional flour to roll out the little balls into roundish, flat disks. Most recipes call to make them 1/8″ thick, but just use your best judgement. Ours tend to be a little thicker and not as round as other people’s, but they are still damned tasty.

In the end, lefse is a humble treat, invoking the fortitude of poor immigrants and their love of potatoes. But I love the tradition and was happy when Mr. Foodie helped himself to the lefse platter over and over.

I have so many more stories from our vacation, but I’ll leave you now with a basic lefse recipe – feel free to adjust to your tastes and portion sizes. What are some of your favorite family food traditions?


10lbs potatoes, peeled, chopped

1/2 C of butter

1/2 C of cream (or milk)

1 Tablespoon Salt

1 Tablespoon Sugar

2-3 Cups flour (plus extra for the rolling out)

Butter and Sugar for topping

Boil the peeled, chopped potatoes until fork tender. Drain well. Mash with potato mashes and combine with butter and cream or milk until you achieve a relatively smooth mashed potato consistency. Incorporate salt and sugar. Let cool and then chill in the fridge until it is chilled through. Heat griddle to 400 degrees. Incorporate flour into the mashed potatoes until the dough comes together, but remains a bit tacky. Use more flour to cover a board or cloth for rolling. Pull off a small ball of dough, about the size of a walnut, and roll out into a disk as thin as you please. Transfer to the 400 degree griddle and flip only when the bottom begins to brown. Once both sides are browned, move to a plate and cover with tin foil or cloth to keep warm. Once you’ve made all the lefse, butter and sugar each one to order or all at once to serve rolled up on a platter.

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