recipe: FINNBIFF, norwegian reindeer stew
In the very first week after our arrival here in Pápa, I had the pleasure of attending an “international tasting” at our school and my favorite dish I sampled was Finnbiff, or Norwegian Reindeer Stew. It is a most delicious and creamy concoction of all the things I love – hearty meat and bacon, mushrooms, savory herbs and cheese! What sets this dish apart is the addition of Norwegian brown cheese – something I’d never tasted before – and as it makes up a major ingredient of this dish, it stole the show. Here is a recipe I have found and adapted to make it as close to what I tasted as possible…including American alternatives for some of the difficult-to-find ingredients. I’m not sure this will taste quite the same without the authentic reindeer and brown cheese, but its worth a shot! It is rich and delicious served in a bowl, and also yummy over mashed potatoes. Reindeer can be frozen (it comes in packages of reindeer shavings in Norway) or fresh.
Recipe has been doubled. What can I say? I like leftovers!
1-2 lb Reindeer shavings [its worth trying thinly shaved venison, bison or moose meat]
1/2 lb bacon, chopped up
1/2 lb fresh sliced mushrooms [I use white button mushrooms but any mix will do]
butter for browning [ghee works]
2.5c sour cream [I’m not sure of a non-dairy alternative here…sour cream is part of the flavor of the dish…]
3/4c milk [you’re going to have to go all-in with the dairy on this one, Chester…]
6 slices brown cheese [see photo above. AKA “brunost” or whey cheese. Many different brands – look for the caramel color. Supposedly it’s available at Whole Foods and Trader Joes but I’ve never known to look!]
8-10 crunched juniper berries [one time I used a couple of drops of juniper oil as I was plum out of juniper berries. Another time I used red currants and it turned out fine too! This is to add a nice earthy flavor.]
1 tsp dried thyme
salt + pepper to taste
In a pot heated to medium, brown the bacon and reindeer shavings in the butter. Once mostly cooked, add sliced up mushrooms and sauté until incorporated. Once things are looking (and smelling) cooked, toss in the juniper berries, thyme and salt and pepper. Give it a quick stir, then add the water, sour cream and milk, slowly heating the ingredients together. Finally, once warm, add the cheese slices and stir to allow to melt. It is ready to serve immediately, but gets better the longer it sits and as leftovers. This recipe may even work in a crock pot or instant pot if you sauté the meat first. Enjoy!