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A Nordic Christmas Feast

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Danish chef and cookbook author Trine Hahnemann shares her family’s menu for the most festive meal of the season.

Serves 8, though the first course can serve up to 20 and the trifles fit perfectly into 10 parfait glasses

I go a little crazy at Christmas; I know my family would agree. But you see, in Denmark, where we live, and in the other Nordic countries of Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, Christmas is celebrated for the entire month of December. It’s a very special time of year, with lots of baking, house decorating, Advent Sunday afternoon brunches, tea and cocktail parties (the best ones held outside in the snow), and countless other festive, food-and-drink-centric gatherings with family and friends. I love every minute of it.

The high point is always Christmas Eve, when we eat an elaborate feast late in the day. This event is full of family traditions, and the menu changes from house to house, region to region. For us, there are a few constants, including hot gløgg (gleug; spiced wine punch), cool cured salmon, roast pork with crispy crackling, spiced red cabbage, caramel potatoes, and creamy homemade gravy.

After dinner, we light our Christmas tree with real candles and dance around it, holding hands and singing. Then, a spirited dance through the house, followed by gifts and relaxing by the tree, enjoying dessert (cream-topped applesauce trifles are a favorite), chocolates, cookies, Cognac, coffee, and one another’s company.

It’s a magical evening, made even more idyllic when it snows, turning the world white and silent while we snuggle inside, enjoying the hygge (hoo-guh; coziness), good food and drink, and our loved ones. I hope these recipes—a window of sorts into our Christmas—inspire you to bring a little hygge into your own home this year.

Menu Timeline

Up to 1 week ahead

  • Make the oat-rye-spelt clusters for the trifles.

Up to 5 days ahead

  • Cook the cabbage.
  • Cook the applesauce for the trifles.

Up to 4 days ahead

  • Cure the salmon.

Up to 3 days ahead

  • Make the horseradish cream for the salmon.

Up to 2 days ahead

  • Make the red wine chicken stock for the gravy.

Up to 1 day ahead

  • Parcook the potatoes (don’t finish in the caramel).

Up to 6 hours ahead

  • Prepare the pork for roasting.

Up to 2 hours ahead

  • Marinate the beets.
  • Whip the cream and assemble the trifles.
  • Roast the pork.

Half hour before the pork is done

  • Rinse, pat dry, and slice the salmon.
  • Make the gløgg.

While the pork rests

  • Serve the salmon and gløgg.
  • Heat the cabbage.
  • Finish cooking the potatoes in caramel.
  • Make the gravy.
  • Make the endive salad.

Shopping List

Fresh Produce

  • 3 oranges
  • 6 lemons
  • 1 medium horseradish root
  • 1 bunch fresh dill
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 small celery root
  • 3 medium red beets
  • 3 medium yellow onions
  • 1 lb. Belgian endive (6 medium heads)
  • 4-1/2 lb. baby potatoes
  • 3 lbs. red cabbage (1 large head)
  • 1 small bunch green grapes (enough for 1 cup halved)
  • 4-1/2 lb. tart-sweet apples (about 9)
  • 3 medium cloves garlic

Meat, Seafood, Eggs & Dairy

  • One 4-lb. skin-on salmon fillet (preferably wild)
  • One 6-1/2 lb. skin-on boneless pork loin roast
  • One 3-lb. chicken
  • 15 oz. salted butter
  • 16 oz. heavy cream (2 cups)
  • 1 Tbs. crumbled Danish blue cheese
  • 8 oz. crème fraîche

Other Groceries

  • Rye crispbreads, such as Finn Crisp or Wasa
  • Two 750-ml bottles dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
  • One 500-ml bottle elderflower cordial
  • 2 cups dry red wine, such a Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 30 green cardamom pods
  • 2 oz. Cognac (1/4 cup)
  • 3 oz. red currant jelly
  • 3/4 cups walnuts
  • 3/4 cups hazelnuts
  • One 1-lb. bag rye flakes
  • One 1-lb. bag spelt flakes
  • 16 oz. unsweetened apple juice (2 cups)
  • 2 Tbs. grapeseed oil

Pantry Staples

  • black peppercorns
  • kosher salt
  • 3-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1-1/8 oz. all-purpose flour (1/4 cup)
  • 1-1/3 cups golden raisins
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 3/4 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbs. honey
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 2 Tbs. coriander seed
  • 20 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise

The Menu

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