Alibi V.15 No.47 • Nov 23-29, 2006 



It's Norwegian for "Leftover Helper"

Forget turkey; Thanksgiving is all about the taters. Each November, we Americans take great pride in crowding every inch of available stove surface with pots of buttery, golden, lumpy (or smooth, if you must) mashed potatoes. Then we heap it onto our plates like Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It's glorious. I can almost hear my inner child singing "mashed potatoes" to the chorus of Handel's "Messiah."

The leftovers are great as long as the gravy holds out. Inevitably, however, there's a fatal error in the gravy-to-potato ratio. We're stuck with pounds and pounds of dried-out, orphaned mashed potatoes, taunting us and taking up valuable space in our already-overburdened refrigerators.

Scandinavian folks are just as obsessed with potatoes as we are, and they’re well-acquainted with the leftovers dilemma. Unlike us, they don't just give up and throw the whole thing out.

They make lefse.

Lefse is basically a Scandinavian tortilla, made with mashed potatoes in place of wheat or corn flour. In Minnesota--where the Norwegian-American population is so high you can actually buy lefse year-round in any super market--they eat theirs hot, rolled up with butter, cinnamon and sugar.

Potato Lefse

This recipe is adapted from The Norwegian Table recipe archive at
Makes 24 pieces of flatbread


4 cups leftover mashed potatoes
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
About 3 cups all-purpose flour
Vegetable oil, for greasing

1) In a pot over medium flame, heat the mashed potatoes through with butter and milk. Add salt and mix well. Remove from heat and cool.

2) Working in 1/3 cup increments, add just enough flour to form a stiff, non-sticky dough. The less flour, the better. Divide dough into 24 equal pieces.

3) With a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface or pastry cloth, roll out each piece into paper-thin rounds.

4) Grease a griddle or frying pan with vegetable oil and set over medium-high heat. Working in batches, place each lefse on the hot surface and cook until it begins to "bubble" and light brown spots appear on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Turn over and cook the second side until light brown spots form. Carefully remove lefse from the griddle and stack between paper towels. Repeat until all the lefse are cooked, then serve hot with butter, cinnamon and sugar.