What Do You Know About Swedish Food?

If you are not ethnically Scandinavian, then probably the only thing that comes to mind is Swedish meatballs—those lovely delicacies from many a crock pot dinner party. (Yeah, I’m not a fan either.) But with the introduction of IKEA to this country, we now know about lingonberry jam, elderflower drinks, and all of those weird shaped biscuits they sell. Can a country live on meatballs in brown sauce and made-up jam flavors? I’m pretty sure the answer is no, but as much as I watch New Scandinavian Cooking on PBS, I still don’t “get” the cuisine. (That could also be due to the fact that I spend most of any episode drooling over Andreas Viestad.)

Then, I came across Flygande Jakob (or Flying Jacob) and I realized that the reason Swedish food doesn’t export very well is because it’s a whole lotta crazy. I suspect that Swedish meatballs are the sanest of their national dishes, hence the ease of translation across the Atlantic. Let me explain: Flying Jacob is a rather odd casserole that is apparently familiar as a comfort food in Sweden. I can’t find out much more about it other than it was invented by a man named Ove Jacobsson who worked in the air freight industry. (That’s how it got its name.) He submitted the recipe to the food magazine, Allt om Mat in the 1970s.

I’m also not sure as to how often the Swedes actually eat this dish. But, I found this recipe in a Red Bull insert in my Sunday paper, so I thought I’d give it a whirl. (That wasn’t a misprint. I actually read an advertising magazine insert, found a recipe, saved it, and made it. You’re welcome.)

Flygande Jakob (Flying Jacob)

Serves 4

  • ½ lb mushrooms, sliced fairly thickly
  • 4 chicken breasts (skinned and boned), cut into bite-sized chunks.
  • Vegetable oil
  • 5 slices of bacon, finely chopped (I have a suspicion that the recipe calls for good European-style bacon, and not the fat strips we call bacon. So, I’m going to suggest using Canadian bacon.)
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 C cream of chicken soup (just use a can… it’s about the same)
  • ¾ C whipped cream
  • ⅓ C crème fraîche, sour cream, or buttermilk (I used sour cream.)
  • 1 t garam masala
  • 3 T sweet chili sauce
  • 2 bananas
  • Salted peanuts
  • Salt and pepper

After reading the ingredients, are you afraid yet? It gets better (and odder) when you put it all together.

Preheat the oven to 450°. Heat a bit of vegetable oil in a skillet. Sauté mushrooms on low heat until any resulting liquid evaporates. (I just let them cook as I finished the rest of the recipe.)

Season chicken chunks with salt and pepper. In a separate pan, sauté chicken in vegetable oil until golden brown. Add bacon and onion to chicken. (If you use regular bacon, render out a bit of the fat first.) Then, pour in the chicken soup.

Reduce the heat, and stir in the whipped cream and crème fraîche. Season with garam masala, chili sauce, salt, and pepper to taste. Add mushrooms to the chicken mixture.

Pour this mix into an ovenproof baking dish. Slice the bananas and spread around the baking dish. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, sprinkling the salted peanuts over the dish halfway through. Serve with cooked rice.

Results

My version came out WAY gooier than it was supposed to (at least judging by the pictures I’ve seen online since). I believe it is because I made the rooky mistake of measuring ¾ cup whipping cream and then whipping it, rather than whipped cream measured to ¾ cup. Major error on my part. But, you know what? It’s still rather fantastic. The taste profile is a bit Southeast Asian with the bananas and garam masala. But the heavy use of dairy and bacon give it a farm-fresh feel to it.

Flying Jacob: A goopy mess

Looks like a nasty chicken casserole...

A big hit with my husband. And, after denuding it of peanuts, a big hit with Mr. Moo as well.

Post script: Now, this is why I love the internet. Allt om Mat has a web site where you can find a recipe for Flying Jacob. Presumably, the original one, but I can’t be sure. (Thanks to Google Translate, you see that “kycklingar, färdiggrillade” means pre-grilled chicken.) The recipe online seems a lot simpler with fewer ingredients, more chili sauce, and just a bit of crispy bacon sprinkled on top along with the peanuts. I’ve also done a quick compare, and very few of the recipes include mushrooms. But, as with all “traditional” recipes changes and adaptations are part of the game.

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