"I'm in a car! On a boat!"
"On a boat!"
Kåre probably didn't respond with such disinterest, but since I can't remember conversations that happened over six months ago, I shall turn to the time-honored practice of "making stuff up."
However, I'm pretty sure my part of the conversation is accurate—the part where I'm really excited about being in a car on a boat. Why? Because I'd never experienced it before—riding in a vehicle, in another vehicle, on water. That's like a cat hitching a ride on a porpoise to get across a river. Exactly like that. Or nothing like that. Something like that?
...Well. The experience tickled me for some reason. Probably because I'm 500 percent landlubber. Kåre grew up with the ferry experience thanks to a childhood of frequent visits to his family's summer house in Tysnes, an island most easily accessible from Bergen by driving to the southern tip of Os and riding a ferry for half an hour. Which is what Kåre and I did because we were going to spent the night at the house.
- This house, it is cute.
- This living room, it is cute.
- I sure love that wood. You can see the sauna through the open door.
And thus was another experience unknown to me: staying in a summer house (and considering Scandinavians have their own subsection in Wikipedia's entry for "summer house," I'm assuming they're particularly fond of summer houses). A very cute, homey, cabin-like house with a sauna, fireplace, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, kitchen, and living room. Car-in-a-boat can't compete with that.
The Sandvik Family Summer House didn't start off with all those amenities though; Kåre's dad and grandfather had built it in the '70s at a time when plumbing wasn't available in the area (toilets and saunas would have to wait). When they needed water, they'd fill jerrycans at a nearby stream. Plumbing was installed once it became available, transforming the cabin into more of a proper house—still humble, even if less rugged.
About five years ago Kåre's parents thought about selling the house since, with their kids all grown up, its use became sparse. Thankfully, Kåre's sister, Anne-Kristin, bought the house to keep it in the family (and, well, so her husband and kids could use it). A good choice, I'd say. When Kåre was a kid growing up in Os, his family would use the house most weekends. These days the Sandviks goes during major holidays and Anne-Kristin's family uses it as their summer vacation home.
And another reason to use the house: when I'm visiting. In which case it's just me 'n Kåre.
First step when arriving at the house: Set stuff on fire. In the furnace and fireplace, that is. Because it's freakin' cold. (But don't turn on the fan above the stove while the fireplace is roaring without opening a window in the kitchen. Otherwise the room will fill with smoke. We learned from experience.)
Second step: Prepare the pork rib! I mean, if you're cooking pork rib. And you should—specifically, ribbe, a traditional Christmas dish of roast pork ribs with deeply scored skin resulting in meat studded with crispy pork fat cracking nubbins. It is so, so very good. Like, "What did I do to deserve this pork's absence in my life [slams palms on table] WHAT DID I DO [anger turns to sobs] WHYYYY [cheeks glisten with steams of tears, nasal passages clog with gloom-mucus]?" good.
I might be overselling it a bit. But it's very tasty, and easy to make, to boot. We used this recipe from Mat Prat. The Google translated version is....serviceable. Thanks to Kåre's bilingual brain, here's a translation:
Ribbe (Norwegian-style roast pork ribs)
2 kg tynnribbe, a Norwegian pork cut that appears to be like spare ribs with the belly/side meat and skin still attached (more info in Morten's and Ryan's comments)
3 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper
About 2 cups water
- Portion 500 grams per person. You won't eat all of it; you can eat the leftovers for breakfast. AWESOME BREAKFAST. Check that the bones are totally cut through to make it easier to cut later. (If it's not cut, it won't affect the cooking; it'll just be harder to cut after.)
- Cut through the skin down into the fat with a sharp knife. If you make the squares parallel to the ribs it'll be easier to cut neatly after cooking.
- Rub rib with salt and pepper 1 to 3 days before cooking. [We didn't have to do this because we bought pre-seasoned ribs.] Make sure the spice gets between the skin and bone. With the skin side down, cover with aluminum foil and put in a cold place; that way the spice will soak into the rib and give better flavor.
- Put rib in the pan with the skin up. Put an upside-down plate under it so the rib is a bit higher in the middle; that way the melted fat will run off. It's important that the rib is equally high on both ends to get equal results. (You can also use a ball of foil to prop up the rib.)
- Pour about 2 deciliters of water into the pan and cover entire thing in aluminum foil. It's important the foil is airtight for steaming to be successful. If it doesn't look completely tight, add water later according to how much you need.
- Preheat oven to 230°C. Put pan in middle of oven and steam for about 45 minutes. The rib will puff up a bit and the skin will fan out/separate.
- Remove the foil and leave the plate and reduce temp to 200°C. Put pan back in oven and let rib roast for 1 to 1 1/2 hours for thin ribs, and 1 1/2 to 2 hours for thick ribs. The cooking time is equally long no matter what it weighs.
- Often the rib will get crisp skinned by itself; if it doesn't you can do the following towards the end of the roasting: put the pan higher in the oven and increase temp to 250°C, or use grill function in oven. Pay close attention so you don't burn it. Don't leave the oven; this will go fast. If only parts of the rib got crackly skin, you can cover these parts with foil so they don't get burned.
- Let the rib rest for about 20 minutes so the juices settle. You'll get a juicy and good rib. Things you can cook in last 20 minutes: Medisterkaker [meatball things], Christmas sausages, apples and prunes. Rib is commonly served with cooking juice/sauce, sauerkraut or red cabbage, prunes, apples, or lingonberries.
And again, with photos.
First, score the skin down to the muscle. Get the blade deep in there. The pig's already dead and all. (Actually, first you'd season the meat, but ours came pre-seasoned.)
Second, prepare for cooking phrase number one: steaming. Stick the whole pork slab on a rack in a pan with a little bit of water, seal the pan tightly with foil, and pop in the oven.
Third, prepare for cooking phase number two: roasting. Remove the foil—and take a big whiff of the pork fumes—then stick the uncovered pork back in the oven.
In the meantime, prepare some starchy sides. We boiled amandine potatoes—small, thin-skinned, creamy tubers—and baked some frozen rösti. Two potato-based sides? Yeah, we overestimated our starch needs. We ended up with enough food to feed at least four people.
Ok, it had some problems around the edges—excess carbon and whatnot. But it was still delicious. And extra crispy.
The result: pork meat saturated in pork juice and pork fat, topped with a thick layer of crunchy pork skin and rich pork fat. Altogether, it is everything you want pork to be.
...Except for the part where you (and by "you" I mean "we") pass out from too much pork. But that's just how pork works.
The next day we started off with homemade cinnamon buns and coffee before taking a little walk in the nearby forest.
Little streams, untroddened snow, naked trees—all this good stuff can be yours just up the road from the summer house.
Down the hill and across the main road you'll get to the dock that Kåre's dad built for the family's boat.
And if you drive around the island as we did (it takes about an hour), you'll pass loads of forests and eventually loads of snow-capped mountains. There's eye candy pretty much everywhere.
...Including when you take the ferry back to Os.
After we got back to Bergen we had to head out for dinner with Morten. You will read about it someday, assuming I don't die today in Hurricane Irene. Pretty sure I won't. [nods]