Saturday, November 24, 2012

Rosettes and Fattigmand

My ancestry is about 75% Scandinavian, mostly Norwegian and some Swedish.  There's also a splash of German in my blood, too.  But it's the Norsk in me that I identify with the most.  In broad generalizations, we Norwegians are a peaceful, outdoorsy, mostly unemotional folk with a great work ethic.  We also have varying degrees of Sarah Palin-esque accents and both of my grandpas sound like extras from the movie "Fargo."  I have even let slip an "uff da" or two in moments of extreme awe or disbelief.

Unfortunately, in the food realm, Norwegians eat very bland white food that I have historically turned up my nose at.  Lutefisk, or "fish jelly" was a horrifying annual occurrence at our Christmas Eve table until Grandma finally realized she was spending a lot of money and time on something that was only used as a punchline.

I've spent the better part of the past several months with a smart, kind, patient, cute, and witty Italian who loves food as much as I do.  He's much better at embracing his heritage than me, though, and together we have enjoyed ziti, risotto, homemade pasta noodles, quick sauce, all-day sauce, ricotta raviolis, and more wine than I can remember.  Two things have made themselves clear to me from this culinary experience:  1) I should be doing more yoga, and 2) I should take more pride in my Norwegian food traditions.

Our best Norwegian food traditions are the pastries on the Christmas cookie tray - Rosettes and Fattigmand (pronounced futti mon, hence the title on the recipe card - it means "poor man's cookie").  Both are white fried cookies sprinkled with sugar.  Grandpa Bob always made these and the whole family would enjoy them with a glass of wine on Christmas Eve.  After Grandpa's stroke a few years ago, he could no longer roll out the dough or handle the frying on his own.  My mom and I started helping, and while Grandma Verna preps everything and tackles cleanup duty, Grandpa Bob is the lead sugarer and supervises with a critical eye for the right amount of dough thinness and fried doneness.

My mom has never really enjoyed this tradition as much as I did, so she was overjoyed when I told her the Italian would be helping me this year and learning our Norse fried cookie ways.  While Italians will always win the culinary battle in any ethnic match, it was very fun to showcase some of my roots with him in this way.

Warning to vegetarians:  these cookies are fried in lard.  I'm sure you could use some other type of oil or fat, but that wouldn't be true to the recipe.  Melt 2 pounds of lard in a large pan over high heat and when a frozen french fry bubbles up immediately, you know it's at the right temperature (this is how it's done, don't question the methods!).

We make Rosettes first, as they will fry up prettier with cleaner lard.  And we use ancient Rosette molds that were purchased by my Grandma "many years ago" from "the store."  That's what she said when I asked.

Both recipes below have a secret ingredient that for some reason is not included on the written recipe, and that's a splash of brandy.  I have no idea why it's not written down, but it must be included to give the cookies an extra "tang" according to Grandpa.  And, while I'm sure every scandihoovian family has their own methods of making these treats (powdered sugar is often used in place of regular sugar), this is how we do it and I'm proud of it!

Makes about 15-18 Rosettes

Official recipe as written:
2 eggs - whip with fork
1 tsp sugar
1 C. flour
1 C. milk

Don't use much fat in pan or it bubbles over.

Unofficial chef's notes from several years of practice:
In a large pan, heat 2 pounds of lard until the right temperature (see 2 paragraphs above) and put your Rosette molds in the oil to get hot.  In a small bowl with a flat bottom, beat 2 eggs, add a pinch of salt, 1 tsp sugar, 1 cup of milk, and don't forget the splash of brandy!  Then add in 1 cup of flour and mix until lumps are gone, but don't overmix.  Batter should be runny like pancake batter.

Take Rosette iron out of hot lard and dip in batter.  Be careful to not go over top of mold, only dip in enough so batter goes up side of mold.  Gently tap off excess batter and hold iron in lard until golden brown.  Use a fork to pop Rosette off the iron and on to a paper towel covered pan.  Immediately sprinkle with granulated sugar.  Repeat until dough is gone.  Cool Rosettes at room temperature, then store in an airtight container until Christmas.

Lard is too hot if batter won't stick to iron, or batter immediately pulls away from iron when dipped in fat.

Makes a lot

Official recipe translation:
4 eggs beaten
4 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons cream
1/4 tsp salt

Unofficial chef's notes from several years of practice:
We have never made a full batch of this, we always cut it in half.

Start in a medium bowl with 2 beaten eggs, add 2 Tbsp sugar, 2 Tbsp heavy whipping cream, salt, and don't forget the splash of brandy!  Then add enough flour so that it comes together like a dough.  Dump dough onto a well-floured table and start to knead more flour into the dough until it's no longer sticky.

Keep flouring table and rolling pin to avoid sticking.  Cut dough in half and roll one half out into a large, thin circle.  The thinner, the better.  Use a pastry cutter with fluted edges, or a regular pizza wheel to cut vertical strips into the dough, about 2 inches apart.  Then cut diagonal lines from bottom left to top right about 2 inches apart.  You will end up with pretty diamonds.  Use cutter to put 2 small air vent holes in the middle of each diamond, to help cookie stay flat while frying.  Repeat with second half of dough.

Carefully peel diamonds from table (hopefully you used enough flour so it doesn't stick too much) and drop 3 or 4 at a time into the hot lard.  Keep diamonds flat and flip once so it's evenly browned on both sides.  Remove to a paper towel lined pan and immediately sprinkle with granulated sugar.  Let Fattigmand cool to room temperature and store in an airtight container until Christmas.

ONE YEAR AGO:  Roasted Mushrooms over Creamy Polenta
TWO YEARS AGO:  Pinecone Cheeseball
THREE YEARS AGO:  Thanksgiving Shepherd's Pie


  1. They are beautiful! Just perfect to start off the holiday season!

  2. wow these are so beautiful, and something I have never heard of before. I love ethnic food!!