Korean Americans are Americans of Korean heritage or descent, mostly from South Korea (99%), and with a very small minority from North Korea, China, Japan, and the Post-Soviet states. The Korean American community comprises about 0.6% of the United States population, or about 1.8 million people, and is the fifth largest Asian American group. The two metropolitan areas with the highest Korean American populations as per the 2010 Census were the Greater Los Angeles Combined Statistical Area (334,329) and the Greater New York Combined Statistical Area (218,764). The Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area ranks third, with approximately 93,000 Korean Americans clustered in Howard and Montgomery Counties in Maryland and Fairfax County in Virginia. Southern California and the New York City metropolitan area have the largest population of Koreans outside of the Korean Peninsula. Among Korean Americans born in Korea, the Los Angeles metropolitan area had 226,000 as of 2012; New York (including Northern New Jersey) had 153,000 Korean-born Korean Americans, and Washington had 60,000. The percentage of Korean Americans in Bergen County, New Jersey,(my old home town) in the New York City Metropolitan Area, (increased to 6.9% according to the 2011 American Community Survey and is the highest of any county in the United States. Georgia was home to the fastest-growing Korean community in the U.S., with a significant Korean American population in the Atlanta metropolitan area, mainly in Gwinnett County (2.7% Korean), and Fulton County (1.0% Korean).
One of the first Korean Americans was Seo Jae-Pil, who came to America shortly after participating in an abortive coup with other progressives to institute political reform in 1884. He became a citizen in 1890 and earned a medical degree in 1892 from what is now George Washington University. Throughout his life, he strove to educate Koreans in the ideals of freedom and democracy and pressed the U.S. government for Korean independence. He died during the Korean War. His home is now a museum, cared for by a social services organization founded in his name in 1975.
A prominent figure among the Korean immigrant community is Ahn Chang Ho, pen name Dosan, a social activist. He came to the United States in 1902 for education. He founded the Friendship Society in 1903 and the Mutual Assistance Society. He was also a political activist during the Japanese occupation of Korea. There is a memorial built in his honor in downtown Riverside, California and his family home on 36th Place in Los Angeles has been restored by the University of Southern California. The City of Los Angeles has also declared the nearby intersection of Jefferson Boulevard and Van Buren Place to be “Dosan Ahn Chang Ho Square” in his honor.
Another prominent figure among the Korean immigrant community was Syngman Rhee (이승만) He came to the United States in 1904 and earned a bachelor’s degree from George Washington University in 1907, a master’s degree from Harvard University, and a Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1910. In 1910, he returned to Korea and became a political activist. He later became the first president of the Republic of Korea.
In 1903, the first group of Korean laborers came to Hawaii on January 13, now known annually as Korean-American Day, to fill jobs as laborers. Between 1904 and 1907, about 1,000 Koreans entered the mainland from Hawaii through San Francisco. Many Koreans dispersed along the Pacific Coast as farm workers or as laborers in mining companies and as section hands on the railroads.
Between 1905 and 1910, political activities in Korean American communities surged in opposition towards Japanese aggression of Korea and they formed organizations throughout the US. In 1909, two of the largest Korean-American organizations would merge to form the Korean National Association, the largest Korean immigrant organization in North America. Leaders included An Changho, Syngman Rhee, and Park Yong-man. This organization along with others would play key roles in the Korean independence movement between 1910 and 1945. When the Korean War ended in 1953, small numbers of students and professionals entered the United States. A larger group of immigrants included women married to U.S. servicemen. With the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, Koreans became one of the fastest growing Asian groups in the United States, surpassed only by Filipinos. In the 1980s and 1990s Koreans became noted not only for starting small businesses such as dry cleaners or convenience stores, but also for building churches.
Korean American cuisine can be described as a fusion of traditional Korean cuisine with American culture and tastes. Dishes such as “Korean tacos” have emerged from the contacts between Korean bodega owners and their Mexican workers in the Los Angeles area, spreading from one food truck (Kogi Korean BBQ) in November 2008 to national prominence eighteen months later. Often, chefs borrow from Korean flavors and preparation techniques that they integrate into the cuisine they are most comfortable with (whether it be Tex-Mex, Chinese, or purely American). Even a classic staple of the American diet, the hamburger, is available with a Korean twist – bulgogi (Korean BBQ) burgers.
Korean cuisine has unique and bold flavors, colors, and styles; that include kimchi, a spicy dish made of salted and fermented vegetables (baechu-kimchi, kkaktugi), long-fermented pastes (gochujang, doenjang), rice cake, noodle dishes and stews (tteok-bokki, naengmyun), marinated and grilled meats (bulgogi, galbi), and many seafood dishes using fish cakes, octopus, squid, shellfish and fish.
Make some Korean style dishes at home. Here are a few recipes for you to try.
Red Pepper Potatoes
This is a traditional and uniquely-flavored Korean side dish. Serves 3-4.
1 tablespoons soy sauce
1 pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
3 medium red potatoes, about 1 lb, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 large green onions, sliced thin
1 red bell pepper, diced
Whisk the soy sauce and cayenne pepper in a small bowl until the cayenne pepper is dissolved; set aside.
Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; cook the potatoes in the hot oil until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Stir in the scallions and bell pepper; cook 2-3 minutes more. Pour the soy sauce mixture over the potatoes; cook and stir until the liquid is completely absorbed 1 to 2 minutes.
Korean Bulgogi-Style Grilled Steak
1/4 cup gochujang Korean chili paste
3 cloves garlic
1-inch piece of fresh ginger
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons of unseasoned rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1/2 cup peanut oil
2 large scallions, chopped
2 tablespoons cilantro
1 ½ to 2-pound flank steak
In a large plastic ziplock bag combine the gochujang, garlic, ginger, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, black pepper, oil, scallions, and cilantro. Close the bag and mix the ingredients together. Add the steak, close the bag and turn the bag over several times to coat the steak. Place the bag in a large dish and let the steak marinate in the refrigerator overnight. Turn the bag over several times during the marinating time.
Preheat an outdoor grill to medium-high heat. Grill the steak for 6 to 8 minutes per side, depending on thickness, until the steak is cooked medium-rare. It should reach an internal temperature of 130°F. in the thickest part of the steak. Remove the steak from the grill to a cutting board, tent it with foil, and let it rest for 3 to 4 minutes.
Slice the steak into thin pieces across the grain, place on a serving plate and serve with the reserved sauce.
Korean Cucumber Salad
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon peanut or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Half of a hothouse (English) cucumber or regular unwaxed cucumber, unpeeled and thinly sliced
1 green onion, sliced thin
1/2 carrot, shredded
Make the dressing: In a serving bowl, stir together vinegar, black pepper, red pepper flakes, honey, oil, and sesame seeds.
Make the salad: Mix in the sliced cucumber, green onions, and shredded carrot. Cover, and refrigerate until serving time.
Serve the brisket with red cabbage coleslaw and baked sweet potatoes or sweet potato fries. Later in the week the brisket and coleslaw will make a delicious sandwich.
Spicy Chili Rub
4 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons table salt
1 tablespoon ground oregano
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground white pepper
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 whole beef brisket, about 5 pounds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 or 2 large onions, finely chopped
2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
Combine the spice rub mixture and rub olive oil over all areas of the brisket. Then thoroughly coat the brisket with the chili rub. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. degrees. Place the brisket in a roasting pan and scatter the chopped onion around the brisket. Roast, uncovered, for 1 hour.
Combine the BBQ sauce ingredients in a large measuring cup. Pour the BBQ sauce over the brisket. Cover the baking pan tightly with foil and lower the heat to 300 F degrees. Cook for another 4–5 hours or until fork tender.
Once cooked, slice the meat thinly across the grain and serve with the sauce.
Yield: 8 or more servings.
Red Cabbage Coleslaw
Half of a head of red cabbage, thinly shredded
2 large carrots, shredded
3 large scallions, minced
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Combine the dressing ingredients in a large bowl with a cover. Add the shredded cabbage, shredded carrots, and scallions. Mix thoroughly. Cover the salad and refrigerate several hours before serving.
Italian Sausage, Cannellini Beans and Greens with Grilled Garlic Bread
This dish is versatile. It can be vegetarian by leaving out the sausage (or use a veggie version) and vegetable broth instead of chicken. You can simplify the process if time is short and use canned beans and broth. Just be sure to add the same seasonings. The dish will be almost as good!
Homemade Chicken Broth
1 whole chicken carcass (leftover from roasting or use chicken bones)
2 medium carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 medium celery stalks, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 medium yellow onion (about 6 oz.), cut into 1/2-inch wedges
Freshly ground black pepper
A handful of parsley and a bay leaf
Add enough cold water to submerge the chicken carcass (about 5 quarts) in a large stockpot. Add the carrots, celery, onion, 1 1/2 tablespoons. salt, and 2 teaspoons black pepper. Cover the pot, with the lid slightly ajar. Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce the heat to maintain a very gentle simmer, partially covered, for 2 hours If at any time the water level drops below the solids, add water to cover and return to a simmer.
Remove the carcass from the broth and discard. Strain the broth through a fine sieve set over another pot or a bowl large enough to hold the broth. Gently press on the solids with a large spoon to squeeze out any remaining broth. Measure out 6 cups of broth and set aside.
Use the remaining broth for other recipes or freeze in small containers for future use.
1 ½ cups dried cannellini beans
Pinch baking soda
1 large carrot or 2 medium, diced
1 large celery stick or 2 medium, diced
1/2 sweet onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
The night before serving, rinse the beans picking out any bad ones and place them in a large bowl. Cover with water, add a pinch of baking soda and let soak at least 12 hours.
The next day, drain the beans, rinse and drain well. Place the beans in a heavy stock pot with the vegetables, garlic, and Italian seasoning, cover with water about 4 cups and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the beans are tender about 60-90 minutes. Add salt to taste. Measure out 3 cups of cooked beans with their cooking liquid and vegetables and set aside. Save the remaining cooked beans for other recipes.
1 lb (6 links) (3 hot and 3 sweet) Italian pork sausage
Cut the sausage into ¼ inch thick slices. Cover the bottom of a Dutch Oven with olive oil and brown the slices of sausage.
Finishing the dish
3 cups cooked escarole or swiss chard
2 cloves garlic, one chopped and one whole
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 Parmesan cheese rind
6 cups homemade chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups cooked cannellini beans
Italian bread or use the recipe below
Chop the greens into small pieces and add the greens to the Dutch Oven with the browned sausage. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Stir. Add the reserved beans, salt, and chicken broth. Stir gently and add the cheese rind.
Bring the ingredients in the stockpot to a low boil, reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, covered, until all the ingredients are hot, about 20 minutes
Slice the bread (See recipe below) and grill or toast lightly. Rub the peeled garlic clove over the surface of the grilled bread and serve with the stew.
Homemade Italian Country Bread
2 teaspoons SAF (instant) yeast
1 teaspoon honey
1 1/2 cups warm water (100-110 degrees)
4 cups bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Place the warm water in an electric mixing bowl. Add honey. Mix until the honey is dissolved.
Add the 4 cups of flour and salt and mix. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the flour.
Using the paddle attachment on number low speed, mix the dough until a dough forms that holds together and cleans the sides of the bowl. Switch to the dough hook and continue kneading for 7-8 minutes, until the dough is soft but supple.
Shape the dough into a ball. Spray the mixer bowl with olive oil cooking spray and place the ball of dough back into the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until double, about 60 minutes.
Place a sheet of parchment paper in a 9 or 10-inch pan or shallow dish. Turn the dough out onto the parchment pan or dish. Gently shape the dough into a round and cover with greased plastic wrap and a kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes or more.
At the same time put a covered Cloche pan or Dutch Oven in the oven and preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.
Do not grease or spray the Cloche pan or Dutch Oven.
After the dough has risen for 30 minutes and the oven temperature is at 500 degrees F, open the oven and take the lid off the cloche pan.
USE A THICK POTHOLDER BECAUSE THE LID IS VERY HOT!
Transfer the dough while on the parchment to the bottom of the hot cloche pan. Cover with the cloche lid.
Bake for 15 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 450 degrees F and remove the cloche lid.
Bake 15 minutes more, or until the bread is crusty and brown. Remove the pan from the oven and place the bread on a wire cooling rack.
After Russia sold Alaska to the United States in the mid-nineteenth century, waves of Russian immigrants fleeing religious persecution moved to the United States. These groups generally settled in coastal cities, including Brooklyn (New York City) on the East coast, and Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Portland, Oregon, on the West coast.
Many of the city dwellers took jobs in factories, often as garment workers. Those who preferred rural living benefited from the Homestead Act and set up farms across the West, while still others worked in mills and mines in the Midwest. Russians contributed their diverse cultural traditions and devout faith (for some Judaism and for others Russian Orthodox) to the places they settled. Unlike immigrants from other countries, few returned to Russia—America had become their homeland.
Emigration was restricted during the Soviet era, however, following the breakup of the Soviet Union, immigration to the U.S. increased considerably. Some Ukrainian Americans, Belarusian Americans, Rusyn Americans along with Jewish Americans, German Americans from the former Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, identify themselves as Russian Americans. According to the Institute of Modern Russia’s 2011 report, the Russian American population was estimated to be 3.13 million.
In 2007 Russian was the primary spoken language in 851,174 homes, according to the U.S. Census. The New York City metropolitan area has historically been the primary place of settlement for Russian immigrants legally admitted into the United States. Brighton Beach, Brooklyn continues to be the most important demographic and cultural center for Russian Americans. However, as Russian Americans have climbed in socioeconomic status, they have moved toward more affluent parts of the New York metropolitan area, notably Bergen County, New Jersey.
Russian cuisine tends toward the starchy side, with plenty of pickling. Grains are a major crop, with rye, buckwheat, wheat and barley commonly used in cooking, especially for bread. Root vegetables like beetroot, potatoes, and onions are also popular ingredients along with mushrooms, sour cream, cabbage, and the ricotta-like “farmers’ cheese”. Classic Russian dishes include Beef Stroganoff, chicken Kiev, beetroot broth, blini, and cheese dumplings.
They prepare a variety of soups, which are almost always served with sour cream. Most famous is borscht, made from beets, cabbage, and meat. In the summer, borscht is served cold. Shchi, also made with cabbage, includes turnips, carrots, onions, and beef. Fish soups are popular, such as solianka, and include onion, tomato, cucumber, lemon, butter, and sometimes beef. Many soups also include potatoes or dumplings. Traditional dark Russian bread is made from rye and Russian meals are accompanied by vodka.
Beef Stroganov or Stroganoff (Russian spelling: бефстроганов befstróganov) is a Russian dish of sautéed pieces of beef served in a sauce with smetana (sour cream). Following its origin in mid-19th-century Russia, the dish has become popular around the world, with considerable variation from the original recipe.
Elena Molokhovets’s classic Russian cookbook, A Gift to Young Housewives, gives the first known recipe for Govjadina po-strogonovski, s gorchitseju, “Beef à la Stroganov, with mustard”, in its 1871 edition. The recipe involves lightly floured beef cubes (not strips) sautéed, sauced with prepared mustard and broth, and finished with a small amount of sour cream: no onions, no mushrooms, and no alcohol. Another recipe, this one from 1909, adds onions and tomato sauce and serves it with crisp potatoes, which are considered the traditional side dish for beef Stroganoff in Russia. The version given in the 1938 Larousse Gastronomique includes beef strips, and onions, with either mustard or tomato paste as an option.
After the fall of Tsarist Russia, the recipe was popularly served in the hotels and restaurants of China before the start of World War II. Russian and Chinese immigrants, as well as US servicemen stationed in pre-Communist China, brought several variants of the dish to the United States, which may account for its popularity during the 1950s.
The version often prepared in the United States consists of strips of beef filet with a mushroom, onion, and sour cream sauce served over noodles. In the UK and Australia, a recipe very similar to that commonly found in the United States is popular, but it is served over rice.
Make a Russian inspired dinner at home.
Serves 4 (or servings for 2 in parenthesis)
1 (1/2) pound filet mignon or mignon tips (cut into 2 inches long and 1/4 inch wide)
3 ( 1 1/2) tablespoons butter
1 ( 1/2) sweet onion, finely chopped
1/2 ( 1/4) cup beef broth
1 (1/2) tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 ( 2 T) cup heavy cream
1/2 ( 1/4) cup sour cream
2 ( 1 ) teaspoons flour
2 (1) tablespoons minced fresh dill
2 (1) tablespoons minced parsley
Salt and freshly grounded black pepper
8 ( 4) ounces medium egg noodles, cooked
Heat a large non-stick skillet over high heat and sear meat on all sides, for about a minute. Work in small batches so the meat does not give off any liquid. Remove to a plate.
Add the butter and onions and saute until tender.
Blend broth, flour, mustard, heavy cream, and sour cream together. Lower heat, add the liquid mixture, and simmer, without boiling until sauce thickens about 5 minutes.
Return meat to the sauce and heat, without boiling until meat is warmed through. Season to taste with salt and pepper; stir in dill and parsley and spoon over noodles.
Roasted Carrots and Parsnips
2 pounds parsnips
1 pound carrots
2 large shallots
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Cut the carrots, and parsnips into 2-inch sticks. Cut the shallots into 1/2 inch pieces
Place the cut vegetables on a sheet pan. Add the olive oil, salt, and pepper and toss well. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the vegetables, tossing occasionally until the parsnips and carrots are just tender. Sprinkle with dill and serve hot.
I recently roasted root vegetables for dinner and had extra cooked spinach on hand, so rather than reheat the vegetables, I came up with a new way to serve them. The two new dishes complimented pan seared beef tenderloin steaks very well.
Spinach Stuffed Tomatoes
2 large beefsteak tomatoes
1 cup leftover garlic sautéed spinach
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons Panko bread crumbs
Cut off a thin slice from the tops of the tomatoes. Scoop out the seeds and center flesh with a small serrated spoon. Sprinkle the insides of the tomatoes with a little salt and turn them over on a paper towel to drain for 30 minutes.
Divide the spinach in half and fill the center of the tomatoes. Top the spinach with 1 tablespoon of grated cheese and sprinkle the bread crumbs on top. Drizzle with a little olive oil.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a small baking dish and place the filled tomatoes in the dish. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes.
Roasted Root Vegetable Puree
2 cups leftover roasted root vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, and parsnips)
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Place the roasted vegetables in the processor. Pulse until completely pureed. Add the cream to make a smooth mixture. Place the pureed vegetables in a microwave safe bowl, top with the butter and heat on high for several minutes until the vegetables are hot. Sprinkle on the chives and serve.
Filet Mignon with Cabernet Sauce
2- 6 oz. filet mignon steaks, about 1-inch thick
1/2 teaspoon each salt & pepper
1/4 cup minced shallots
1 tablespoon fresh herbs, such as rosemary or thyme
1 cup Cabernet wine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Heat a skillet and add 1 tablespoon butter. Sprinkle the steaks with salt & pepper. Cook filets until desired doneness,4- 5 minutes per side (depending on thickness) for medium-rare.
Remove the steaks to serving plates
Add shallots, cook 1 min, add wine and herbs. Boil for several minutes until reduced. Stir in butter. Pour the sauce over the steaks and serve.
Alabama Sweet and Spicy Pork Ribs
2 racks meaty pork ribs
For the barbecue spice rub
2 tablespoons smoked paprika (sweet or hot)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar or sugar substitute
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried thyme
For the sweet and spicy glaze
1 cup tomato ketchup(regular or no sugar added)
½ cup brown sugar or brown sugar substitute
2 garlic cloves, grated
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon barbecue spice rub (see above)
Mix together the ingredients for the barbecue spice rub, and set 1 teaspoon aside for the glaze.
Pat both sides of the ribs dry with paper towels. Using a sharp knife, remove the thin membrane from the back of each by slicing into it and pulling it off with a paper towel.
Put the ribs in a large baking dish and sprinkle them all over with the spice rub. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.
Mix all the ingredients for the glaze together in a mixing bowl and set aside.
If using a charcoal barbecue, light it about 30 minutes before you want to cook. If using a gas barbecue, preheat it 10 minutes beforehand. Rearrange the coals or turn off the middle burner for indirect cooking. Put the ribs on the grill, bone-side down, making sure they are not directly over the heat. Cover with the lid and grill over indirect medium heat for 30 minutes each side, or until the ribs are tender and a deep reddish-brown.
Uncover the ribs and brush generously with the sweet and spicy glaze. Cook for 10 minutes, turn and brush with more glaze. Cook for a final 10 minutes or until caramelized and sticky – brush with the remaining glaze and serve.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Bake in the preheated oven until the meat begins to pull away from the bones but is not fully tender, about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 450°F. (Do not remove ribs from oven.) Brush both sides of ribs with the glaze. Bake until ribs are very tender and caramelized, 35 to 45 minutes. Brush with the glaze several times during the baking time.
Alabama Hot Slaw
Half of a head of green cabbage (1 lb.)
2 celery ribs
1/2 green bell pepper
2 tablespoons minced red onion
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 teaspoons honey or low carb honey substitute
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons mustard
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Finely chop the cabbage, bell pepper, celery, and carrot.
Place the chopped vegetables and onion to a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, add the vinegar, honey, and salt; whisk until clear.
Add in the black pepper, mustard, and Tabasco; stir to mix, then pour on the vegetables.
In a small skillet or in the microwave heat the oil until very hot.
Pour the hot oil over vegetables.
Let sit for 4 minutes.
Toss and let sit at room temperature until serving time.
Round out the meal Alabama style with corn-on-the-cob.
The majority of Norwegian immigrants lived in the farming communities of the upper Midwest making their homes in the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and North and South Dakota. They settled in cities such as Brooklyn, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Seattle.
Once the first Norwegians came to an area, others often followed, particularly after the Homestead Act of 1862 that made Minnesota land available almost free for the asking. Norwegian immigrants developed commercial fishing along the North Shore, worked in the Iron Range mines and offered trades needed in their areas.
Why did Norwegians leave their homeland?
In the 19th century, Norway was a difficult place for the common folk. Its population was increasing and they were squeezed onto the slivers of land that could be cultivated — only 3 percent of the country. Farm mechanization pushed out landless laborers, and a rigid social hierarchy gave them no chance to improve their situation.
So, they left. Starting in the late 1830s, Norwegians came to America.
Those who had a farming background headed to Norwegian settlements in the coulee country of southwest Wisconsin, the bluff country of southeast Minnesota and Iowa and then the fertile Red River Valley of Minnesota and North Dakota. Norwegians who fished headed for the shorelines of Door County and Minnesota’s North Shore. By 1915, Norway had lost 750,000 people to the United States, contributing, after Ireland, the highest percentage of its population to the new country. Norwegians often chose land that reminded them of home.
They also tried to carry on their Norwegian traditions here in America. Each Christmas, Norwegian-Americans headed to the nearest Norsk deli to buy lutefisk that once was a staple for peasants in Norway. They grated potatoes for lefse, a flat peasant bread, and rolled thin butter cookies on krumkake irons for their holiday celebrations. There are more than 4.5 million people of Norwegian ancestry in the United States today. Norwegian Americans actively celebrate and maintain their heritage in many ways. Much of it centers on the Lutheran-Evangelical churches they were born into. Culinary customs, national dress, and Norwegian holidays (Syttende Mai, May 17) are also popular.
Norwegian cuisine in its traditional form was based largely on the natural materials readily available in Norway and by its geography. Norwegian fare had a strong focus on fish and game. A gradual transition to American life weakened immigrant folkways. Some traditions and customs survived and were cultivated, others were reintroduced and given importance as a part of their ethnic heritage. Toward the end of the century, lutefisk became known as a Norwegian American dish. It was served at lodge meetings, festive banquets, and church suppers, most regularly during the Christmas season.
Lutefisk is whitefish — which refers to several species of finned fish such as cod, ling, or burbot — that has been air-dried and may or may not be salted. It is first soaked in cold water for five or six days, with the water changed daily. The saturated fish is again soaked for two days in an unchanged solution of cold water and lye. Lye is a substance obtained by leaching ashes and is also known as sodium hydroxide. After this weeklong process, the fish loses half of its protein and gains a jelly-like consistency. At this point, it needs another four to six days of soaking in cold water, refreshed daily, before it is ready to be cooked. Since the saturated fish is quite delicate, a layer of salt is added about a half-hour before it is cooked. This releases some of the water being held in the fish. It is then placed in a sealed pan and steam cooked on low heat for 20-25 minutes, or wrapped in aluminum foil and baked at 435 degrees F for 40-50 minutes. Since Minnesota has a large population of Norwegian immigrants, lutefisk is quite popular in the Twin Cities and their surrounding areas. It can be served a number of ways, but some of the more common ones are with boiled potatoes, green peas, melted butter, small pieces of bacon, horseradish, or cheese.
Aquavit is Norway’s famous exported liquor made from potatoes. Distillers flavor it with spice bags of caraway seeds or star anise. After the warm alcohol passes through the bags, it is aged in wood barrels. Cold-pressed, clear Aquavit isn’t aged but is served slightly chilled with herring, cold meat, and fatty dishes. Norwegians serve dark Aquavit, that has been aged for several years, after dinner.
Here are some Norwegian American style recipes for you to make at home.
Pan-Fried White Fish
1 lb white fish fillets
1 large egg
1/2 cup bread crumbs
6 tablespoons butter
Norwegian Lemon Butter Sauce, recipe below
For the Pan-Fried White Fish
Check to make sure all the fish bones have been removed. Season the fillets with the salt and white pepper.
Lightly whisk the egg in a shallow bowl. In a separate bowl combine the breadcrumbs with ¼ teaspoon salt.
Dip the fillets in the egg and then dredge in the breadcrumbs.
Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat and add the butter. Fry the fillets until they are golden brown.
Place the fillets on a paper towel. Transfer the fish to a serving plate and drizzle with the lemon sauce.
Norwegian Lemon Butter Sauce (Sandefjords Mor)
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
Salt to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
Place the lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat; bring to a simmer. Add cream; whisk to combine. Continue to cook until the cream reduces and is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 5 or 6 minutes. Reduce heat to low.
Whisk in a few pieces of cold butter, stirring until the butter melts before adding more. Continue adding the butter a few pieces at a time until all the butter is emulsified into the cream. Add salt, cayenne pepper, and chopped parsley. Whisk until well blended. Keep sauce warm until ready to use.
Sour Cream-Chive Mashed Carrots & Parsnips
Norway has a long history with root vegetables. They are grown in many parts of the country and can generally be easily stored. Norwegians have favorites – like rutabaga, carrots, and potatoes – but more and more, others are being used more frequently in cooking, such as turnips, parsnips, and beets.
8 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (4 cups)
2-3 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (2 cups)
1/3 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, divided
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
Place carrots and parsnips in a large saucepan. Add water to cover and bring to a boil. Boil until very tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Drain well and return to the pan.
Use a potato masher or ricer to finely mash the vegetables. Add sour cream, 2 tablespoons chives, milk, butter, salt, and pepper. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring until heated through. Transfer to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of chives.
Green Beans with Dill Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 pound green beans
Stir together the vinegar, mustard, and salt in a small bowl until the ingredients are combined and the salt has dissolved. Whisking constantly, slowly pour in the oil and continue to whisk until emulsified. Gently stir in chopped dill and set aside.
Steam green beans until tender. Drain. Arrange green beans in a serving dish and season with a little bit of salt. Pour the dill dressing over the green beans. Mix well and leave at room temperature until serving time.
For the bottom layer
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 cups chopped rhubarb (fresh or frozen and thawed)
For the top layer
1/3 cup softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1/2 cup heavy cream
For the bottom layer
In a large bowl mix the butter into the brown sugar with a pastry blender until crumbly. If using frozen rhubarb, dry on paper towels after draining. Stir the rhubarb into the brown sugar and butter. Divide the mixture evenly into a well greased 12 cup muffin pan. Do not use muffin papers. Set this aside.
For the top layer
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a large bowl of an electric mixer combine the butter and sugar until creamy. Add in the egg and mix until well combined.
In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg.
Once blended, add to the creamed butter mixture in small amounts alternating with the cream.
Spoon the batter mixture evenly over the rhubarb layer in the muffin cups.
Bake for 15-20 minutes until the top of the batter is golden brown.
Remove from the oven, set on a cooling rack and let cool for 5 minutes.
Place a serving dish on top of the muffin pan and flip the two over so that the bottom of the buns are right-side up.
Serve while still warm.