We’ve finally made it to Finland another country with special meaning for me. As I’ve mentioned before, my roommate in college was Finnish so I felt a special obligation to get this one right. So let’s start with geography. Finland is bordered by Sweden, Norway and Russia and is across the Gulf of Finland from Estonia. It is by all accounts a beautiful country with thousands of lakes and islands.
The language of the Finns is crazy sounding – kind of musical, but extremely odd and difficult (at least for Americans) to pronounce. It always seemed to me like every Finnish word had too many syllables. But I do remember one swear phrase from my college days, I just can’t remember is it’s the one that translates to “smell a flower” or the one that translates to something really nasty about your mother, so I don’t really get to use it in conversation.
Finland’s economy is strong with the 34th highest GDP per capita in the world. The Finns enjoy a really high standard of living, with solid education system, great access to health care and relative prosperity for its citizens. What Finland is not however, is Scandinavian. If you want to annoy a Finn, refer to them or their country as Scandinavian. Or you could assert that the Swedes invented the sauna, they really hate that J
What they love is food and drink. Although Anu never made us “Finnish” food, she was a really good cook and we loved to make big dinners for all of our friends. Traditional Finnish food relies on hardy vegetables and seasonings very typical for the region. While the final recipe below uses dark rye for the starch, I did try something a little more traditional in the recipe development phase. I tried making Karelian Pasties (or pastries, or patties depending on the translation you find). Karelian Pasties are made from a really thin crust of rye dough filled with rice that’s been cooked in cream. It is usually served with hard-boiled eggs that are mixed with butter. The egg mixture is like a hit of almost pure fat, and it’s tasty. The pastie and its filling were strange and rich and creamy and worked really well with the burger, but they were so much work to make that I really didn’t think it was worth it. If you want to go hard-core, do a search for recipes online and give it a whirl, but if your life is a little too busy, just use the dark rye, it’s delicious and you can buy it already made at your local grocery store.
I also tried making a chutney type of concoction with lingon berries. Lingon berries are a classic in Finish cuisine, but I had no luck making them into something that would go with the burger. They taste to me a lot like cranberries, very tart. Check them out if you ever come across them, and if you can make them into a burger topping, let me know!
Now I know I am going to get some grief about the burger itself. Lindstrom Steak is actually a Swedish recipe, but it has been widely adopted by the Finns and is eaten regularly there. And, I couldn’t resist – adding pickled beets into the ground beef? I mean that’s just genius, and crazy, and cool – we end up with a pink burger, how fun is that? The resulting burger is moist, falls apart easily and reminds me of a really well seasoned meatloaf. Interestingly you only get a hint of the pickled beet flavor, but it’s a really nice accent to the other rich flavors in the burger.
Buttermilk and mushrooms top off the key flavors in the burger adding a great earthiness and a little bit of tartness to the mix. The final burger is rich and delicious, lots of creamy flavors with just enough tartness from the beets and buttermilk to balance it out. We didn’t have any Finlandia vodka, but enjoyed a great Zin with our burgers. It was a perfect cold weather meal that the whole family enjoyed (even my Dad ate the whole thing and pronounced it “probably pretty good” – that’s practically a rave review from him!).
One note, because of the added ingredients in the meat, this recipe makes approximately 6 normal sized burgers, or 4 gigantor burgers if you prefer – I don’t judge…
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
½ cup heavy cream
1 cup pickled beets
1 chopped onion
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ pound ground pork
½ pound ground beef
12 slices of dark rye bread
Eggs with Butter (recipe below)
Braised Mushrooms (recipe below)
Dill Sauce (recipe below)
Soak the bread crumbs in the cream until the liquid is absorbed. Place the soggy bread crumbs in a food processor along with the beets, onions and salt. Pulse until you get a smooth mixture.
Add this mixture to the ground pork and beef and mix until thoroughly combined. Form 6 patties.
Grill patties in butter in a large non-stick pan (note, because of the sugar that is naturally in beets, you get pretty heavy caramelization, i.e. burger looks black, just keep the temperature at medium and don’t worry about it, as long as you don’t actually burn the burgers, it won’t taste burned). Cook to desired temperature.
Grill the bread lightly in the buttered pan. To serve, start with one piece of grilled bread, then add some Eggs with Butter, the cooked burgers and Braised Mushrooms. Spoon on a little Dill Sauce and top with the last pieces of grilled bread.
Eggs with Butter
2 hard boiled eggs, still slightly warm
1½ Tablespoons softened butter
Dice the hard boiled eggs then mash together with the softened butter. Refrigerate until ready to use, bring to room temperature before serving.
½ cup buttermilk
1 Tablespoon salted butter
8 ounces cremini mushrooms sliced
In a medium sauté pan, heat the buttermilk and butter until the butter melts. Add the mushrooms and cook over medium heat until for 3-5 minutes until just beginning to soften. Drain the excess juice and use the mushrooms while they are warm.
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon dried dill
Kosher salt to taste
Add all ingredients together in a glass bowl and refrigerate for a least an hour before using.
©Copyright 2012 Linda Monach