The coronavirus pandemic is causing the world to stop and shelter and wait as the public health storm clouds build. It’s quiet, once inside your shelter, with no sports or concerts to distract and very little human contact to help soothe your troubled soul.
Normally, this is a quiet time in Lefse Land, the off-season when grills and turning sticks are shelved. But this is not a normal time, and I sense that all is not quiet on the lefse front. Just today, I received an email from lefse and rosemaling rock star Shirley Evenstad of Minneapolis, who was featured in my book Keep On Rolling! Life on the Lefse Trail and Learning to Get a Round. She wrote that she was thinking about me today as she boiled five large russets, cut into long strips for cooking, which only took 10 minutes in salted water. Then for ricing she put them through her new Kitchen Aid grinder using the smallest grinding disk, thus only running the spuds through once. In other words, she was tweaking her method. “A person can learn a lot about procedures,” she wrote, “if you are always trying to improve your efficiency. … I do love making lefse!
I have no doubt Shirley is not alone. People love making lefse, and if there was ever a time to steep yourself in the calming rituals of making this traditional food, it’s now.
Lefse is a touchstone in my life, so I’ve been trying lefse recipes that I had heard about but had considered too weird and therefore unworthy of my lefse efforts. Last Sunday, I tried lefse using purple/blue potatoes and sour cream as a replacement for cream. Also, sweet potato lefse.
Purple Lefse With Sour Cream
Blue/purple potatoes are not easy to find, but when I saw them in my local co-op, I snapped them up. After boiling, I peeled and riced, enjoying their distinct earthy aroma and how lively they looked in the bowl. When ricing and stirring in butter, sugar, salt, and sour cream, it felt like this was a stout potato that made for more effort when mixing than with russet potatoes.
The sour cream? I had heard about sour cream lefse and had always wanted to try this. So why not? I just removed the whipping cream and replaced it with the same amount of sour cream.
Because the dough seemed denser than dough from russet potatoes, I reduced by feel the amount of flour, and started to roll and grill. The edges of the rounds were a little more jagged that I would have tolerated in a russet round, but the strength of the dough ensured that the rounds would not fall apart when lifting to the grill.
When I put the round on the grill, it became a pretty purple progression of dark purple changing to light purple from the right side of the round, the side that went on the grill first, to the left. Cool!
The taste? Wonderful! I ate this lefse plain, with butter, and with butter and cinnamon sugar, and it was all good, very good.
Sweet Potato Lefse
The message is short and sweet here: Try sweet potato lefse.
Sweet potatoes are a super health food and can be super colorful. Boiled and mashed and riced, the neon orange sweet potatoes were a sassy contrast to my blue bowl. Making this batch of lefse was going to be really fun!
I boiled the sweet potatoes too long, and after I added butter, sugar, salt, and cream, I had a wet, wet mess. I do not fear wet dough, but this was the wettest batch I had ever worked with.
And yet, with a goodly amount of flour, it worked and the dough rolled beautifully …
And bubbled and browned like potato lefse.
I was worried the taste would be too sweet potato-y. But no, the sweet potato taste was subtle enough that I was satisfied this was still lefse and not a hokey gimmick.
Some people may be put off by the non-traditional look of purple and orange lefse. They may say not to mess with a good thing, and let lefse be lefse. Tradition! Not me. Bring it on! There’s room in Lefse Land for all sorts of lefse.