Dannish burger recipe

Frikadeller (Danish meatball) Burgers with Pickled Red Cabbage and Remoulade Sauce
Denmark is a small country in northern Europe bordered by Germany, the North Sea and the Baltic Sea with Norway and Sweden just over the water.

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

It is a member of the EU, but has not joined the Eurozone, so they don’t use the Euro.  It is one of the most prosperous and economically stable of EU countries.  The Kingdom includes the islands of Greenland and Faroe and their people are Danish citizens.  Denmark has had people living in it since around 12500 BC.  The Kingdom used to include a lot more land, including Sweden and Norway.  Over time, the Danes have had to cede territory and had various groups break away from the Kingdom so that now it occupies land equal to slightly less than twice the size of Massachusetts (not including Greenland and Faroe).  Their history is filled with Vikings and plague, neutrality and conflict and in general, Danes seem to identify more as Scandinavians than as Europeans.

Their food is a reflection of Scandinavian as well as Germanic influences.  Being part of cosmopolitan Europe, almost any kind of food is available and enjoyed in Denmark.  My husband was lucky enough to visit Denmark on business a few years ago (I couldn’t get away to join him 🙁 ), I asked him what he remembered of the food and his only firm memory was that they seemed to butter everything.  This was not a tremendous help as I set forth to figure out what to do for my Danish burger.  It becomes clear as you start researching Danish food that the Danes love dark rye bread (generally called pumpernickel here), which works well for me because I love it too.

They do make a version of a hamburger called hakkebøf.  This is basically a meatball, smooshed slightly flat and often served with potatoes and brown gravy.  This gets translated to “hamburger steak” for reasons that completely escape me.  From what I could tell the more common dish is frikadeller, which is very similar (in fact many of the recipes for these dishes contain the same ingredients).  The only difference seems to be that frikadeller usually combines two meats, while the hakkebøf is usually just beef.  So, I went with frikadeller and used a combo of pork and veal (feel free to use regular beef if you prefer).

The next thing I noticed was that there are lots of references to tarter sauce, apparently, Danes love tarter sauce.  Theirs is made with mustard so that it’s slightly yellow.  Lots of different recipes out there, but most are similar.  I added some tarragon vinegar, but you can use white wine vinegar if you don’t have tarragon vinegar handy (I usually have a jar around because whenever I buy fresh tarragon, I always have too much and hate to waste it, throw it in some white wine vinegar and put it in a jar and it keeps for, virtually, ever.  I also put some capers in because they add a nice salty zing and are used frequently in Danish cooking.

But, my favorite part of this burger is the pickled cabbage.  I need to figure out what to do with the rest of the cabbage, but I loved the fact that pickling the cabbage brought out the hot pink in it and made this the oddest looking burger I can remember.  Ok, the watermelon on the Botswana burger was pretty cool, but even it didn’t quite glow pink like the pickled cabbage.  So it looks cool, but I was pretty sure these flavors would never make anything all that interesting – I was wrong, somehow this crazy mess actually tastes good!  The tart cabbage balances the sweetness of the tarter sauce nicely and the meat comes across with lots of flavor that stands up beautifully to the dark rye.  It’s a hearty burger, but not too heavy, and perfect for the whole family.

Denmark Burger
½ pound ground pork
½ pound ground veal
1 small onion diced (approximately ½ cup)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ cup fresh bread crumbs
2 eggs slightly beaten
2 Tablespoons heavy cream
2 Tablespoons butter plus extra for the bread
Pumpernickel or dark rye bread sliced thin
Pickled Cabbage (recipe below)
Remoulade Sauce (recipe below)
1 medium onion sliced
Vegetable oil

In a medium sized bowl, combine the pork and the veal.  Add all other ingredients up to the cream and mix well.  Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.  I made this into smaller burgers and ended up with 8 patties, you can do that or divide it into any size patties you’d like to get the right number of servings.  When you’re ready to cook, portion out the meat mixture and form ovals with the portions.  In a large non-stick pan, melt the butter.  Place the ovals into the pan and flatten them down.  Cook until completely done.

In the meantime, heat vegetable oil in a skillet until shimmering.  Add onions and cook until browned.  Set aside on paper towel until ready to use.

Butter slices of pumpernickel and place cooked patties on top.  Add some pickled cabbage and top with remoulade sauce and some of the cooked onion.

Pickled Cabbage
2 cups of red cabbage sliced thin
1½ cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon dried dill
½ teaspoon salt

In a large glass bowl, combine all ingredients.  Cover and shake well to coat everything evenly.  Refrigerate for 2-3 hours.  Shake the excess liquid off before using.

Remoulade Sauce
½ cup mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon olive oil
¼ cup sweet relish drained
3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon drained capers
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon tarragon vinegar
½ teaspoon yellow mustard

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to use.


©Copyright 2011 Linda Monach

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16 Responses to Dannish burger recipe

  1. Carl H says:

    Since I live in Sweden, very close to Denmark (30 minutes by train) and have even worked there at times (at one time actually making upmarket burgers at a restaurant!) and have several Danish friends I do think I know something about Danish gastronomy! Aside the recent Michelin guide adventures of the small nation, it’s really quite no nonsense cuisine based mainly around hearty classics (allthough they do like them served in elegant restaurants). It’s very dominated by pork and fish & seafood but minced beef is also common. Also rye and potatoes are the dominating traditional carbs.

    The good news is that this burger is quite Danish. Especially it being an open faced sandwich and especially the Remoulade (in Danish pronouced almost like Rreh-moo-lay but exact pronounciation is impossible to write down). Some things you wouldn’t have in Denmark though. I don’t think I’ve ever seen pickled red cabbage over there (or in any Nordic country), but stewed red cabbage is a classic Christmas dinner side dish, still pickles are quite common. Pickles in Scandinavia are almost always sweet though.

    Remoulade in Denmark is almost always coloured yellow with curry pulver allthough not always but that’s what’s most Danes are used too. All in all this burger isn’t far from what I consider to be the real Danish take on the burger theme. The “Pariserbøf” translated as “Parisian steak” which is essentially a fried Steak Tartare on toast with all the typical Steak Tartare condiments. Very good food if you’ve drunk an amount of Danish beer the day before!

    • linda says:

      Thanks for comments Carl. I’m glad I got it close to authentic Danish food (that’s always my goal). About half of the references I found gave curry as the yellow part of the remoulade, the other half mustard – it figures that I chose the wrong half 🙂

      As for the cabbage, I admit to some creative license in the pickled cabbage – I did read that the red cabbage is usually stewed, but that kills the crunch and accentuates the sulfury flavor of cabbage – not my favorite. So, next time I make this, I’ll try the curry, but I’m sticking with the pickled cabbage 🙂

      The Pariserbøf sounds yummy, if only I could partake of Danish beer!

      • Carl H says:

        Curry powder doesn’t taste that much if you don’t heat it, so I’ll guess it’s not a big loss. Btw… I can’t wait til you get to Sweden, I’m going to set my teeth into that one like an angry wolf!

        Just kidding. Danish beer isn’t that good either, but something you got to have in that country to get the full experience. Btw it must be horrible to get an allergy to beer at 25. I’m suffering with you!

        • linda says:

          I thought you’d send me all of your secret family recipes before I get to Sweden!? Maybe I’ll just skip the S’s, the pressure may be too much for me 🙂

          Yeah, the beer allergy is a lousy thing, although I love wine, it would really be nice sometimes to have a beer (especially on a hot summer day).

          • Carl H says:

            Haha I won’t be that hard on you. I do like to experiment in the kitchen a lot.

            Somebody in the extended family actually have some collection of secret family recipes, dating from the 19th century, which includes stuff like rice pudding and meat-stuffed cabbage rolls and cinnamon meatballs. Mainly really old dishes with sweet and savoury components with quite a spice to it. Quite typical of Swedish food.

          • linda says:

            I’m a big fan of sweet and savory, so I’m looking forward to Sweden – it seems very far away at this point! I wish we still had my great grandmother’s Croatian recipes, they got lost in all of our moves 🙁 Make sure you get copies made of the family recipes lest they disappear forever 🙂

      • Wendy McKuski says:

        My husband found your site today and printed off your Danish Beef recipe and it is very similar to the one I make and my Grandmothers. My Husband and I have been to Denmark several times and we have Danish Beef at our relatives house at least once during our visit. The Danes make a red cabbage that is cooked – red cabbage and cut thin, add equal arts of vinegar and sugar. Some Danes uses apples as well. Cook this until the cabbage is tender and the Danes use this in the open faced sandwich as garnish and served hot with pork or turkey dishes. I like to put gravel on my red cabbage. If you ever get a chance to visit Denmark you will sure to have a great trip.

        • linda says:

          Thanks for writing in Wendy – stories like yours keep me going, I love learning even more about food traditions from around the world. My husband was lucky enough to go to Denmark last year on business and really enjoyed it. I’m hoping to do more traveling myself when the kids are a little older (carting a 2 year old around just doesn’t sound like that much fun – I’d rather wait until she’s old enough to appreciate it). I hope you keep reading and try some of the recipes out.

  2. Carl H says:

    Also Danish rye bread is quite different to Pumpernickel even though I can imagine that’s the closest thing you can get in the states (I’m not even sure yours is similar to the German original version either, you can never be – just compare Czech Budweiser with American – wait… wikipedia tells me it isn’t!). Danish rye bread isn’t nearly as dark as anything called Pumpernickel anyway and quite not the same thing all though there are similarites, but it’s quite easy to google a recipe for the Danish one. Really delicious to make some of your own.

    • linda says:

      When I was a child there was a bread called Black Russian that was amazing – it was darker than pumpernickel and a little less rye flavored, I loved it. Now I can’t even find a “dark rye”, apparently Americans have decided that all dark bread is pumpernickel resulting in everything tasting basically the same, but no way to really identify those that might taste different. I appreciate the tip on making my own, but you know I resist baking, I make no promises… 🙂

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    • linda says:

      I think the trick to making the cabbage edible is to not cook it to death – I hate the overcooked “flatulence” cabbage myself. My mom used to make something called “boiled dinner” that involved boiling cabbage until all of the children ran from the house screaming at the stench! 🙂
      I hope I’ve avoided that in my recipes

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