NORTH Festival: Pytt i Panna {Swedish Hash}

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Pytt i Panna {Swedish Hash}

Behind every food and every meal there is a story, a memory, a connection.

“…My mom’s pytt i panna was always made in the black cast iron frying pan, and she would be most dismissive if she knew we were having this conversation… for pytt i panna was definitely everyday family food, and not worthy of sharing the recipe, in her mind.  Although refrigerator cleaning was the goal, she had a gift for making the dish both beautiful and appetizing: All cubes of meat and potatoes were painstakingly uniform 1/2-inch or smaller cubes, and the best versions of the dish began with finely chopped and caramelized onions, browned first and then removed from the cast iron pan. Then began the frying of the cubes: first potatoes (fingerlings most approximate the varieties available in Sweden)… then, the meat.  All ingredients were then returned to the cast iron pan for a final warming, and always, the dish was served with a chiffonade of herbs including chives, parsley, and a squeeze of lemon for final brightening. If the dish was served for Sunday brunch with contributions from our banty hens, those golden-yolked eggs, fried in a little butter, made the perfect topping for a serving of browned pytt i panna…”

Pytt i Panna {Swedish Hash}

Through Honest Cooking and the NORTH Nordic Food Festival in New York City, I was given the opportunity to immerse myself in Swedish food.  I grew up exposed to many Nordic food traditions.  I was excited, however, to explore Swedish cuisine beyond Santa Lucia {my family has celebrated this holiday ever since I can remember}, smoked salmon, Swedish pancakes, and Swedish Limpa bread.

I immediately turned to Swedish friends for guidance.  I loved hearing little snippets about life and food like the one above (and the one in my kanelbullar {Swedish Cinnamon Buns} post).  However, after inspiration from friends, perusing Time Life’s: The Cooking of Scandinavia, (one of my mom’s cookbooks that I remember looking through many times as a child) and reasearching blogs and other websites, I was not able to select just one recipe, and instead added many Swedish dishes to my list.  For starters, I became intrigued with some of the basic Swedish dishes that have persisted over time.  As can be exemplified in other cultures and cuisines (think macaroni and cheese gone upscale), versions of some popular comfort foods are served both at rural farm tables and in fancy metropolitan restaurants.

Pytt i Panna {little bits in a pan}, is basically a Swedish hash and seems to be one such comfort dish.  The goal of the meal is to clean out the refrigerator, something I can definitely relate to.  It is traditionally served as “leftovers” at home but I can also envision it becoming elegant and gourmet as a stand-alone meal in a restaurant.  No matter where you serve it, or exactly how you prepare it (every home and professional chef has a different take on it), it seems to be an essential Swedish comfort food.  And, I have to admit, what’s not comforting about eating piping hot spoonfuls of fried potatoes and meat.

It is traditionally comprised of {leftover} potatoes, meats and onion.  Though variations abound, based mainly on the types of meat(s) used, the dish is a lesson on how sometimes the simplest lists of ingredients can produce a comforting, flavorful meal.  Traditionally, each serving of hot hash is topped with a raw egg yolk, which cooks as it is stirred into the hot potatoes.  You can substitute a fried egg if you are uncomfortable using raw eggs.  It is absolutely best eaten immediately, while still piping hot.  If you are truly using leftover meat and potatoes, the cook time will be greatly reduced as you will simply need to brown and heat the cubed meat and potatoes.

Pytt i Panna {Swedish Hash}

*I learned the importance of chopping the meat and potatoes into itsy bitsy cubes first-hand.  My first time around, I chopped the pieces into small cubes but didn’t actually get out a measuring stick because I really didn’t think that a 1/4-1/2 inch would make a difference.  The first attempt was good, but not until the next day {for breakfast} when I chopped the “little bits” even smaller, to 1/4-inch, did the pytt i panna win me over.  Because everything was already cooked it didn’t take nearly as long to pull together because it was simply a matter of re-heating and browning the bits in a pan.  With little bits of meat and potatoes fried to golden, crispy perfection, you don’t need extra seasoning because the natural flavors of the ingredients are the main attraction.

Pytt i Panna {Swedish Hash}

The trick is to cut the potatoes, meat and veggies into small cubes. Smaller bits make for more fried surface area which in turn takes the flavor and texture up a notch. The picture above-left is my initial pytt i panna; the picture above-right shows our “leftovers” when I chopped the cubed meat and potatoes even smaller, to 1/4-inch.

NORTH Festival: Pytt i Panna {Swedish Hash}
Recipe type: Main Course
Cuisine: Swedish
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4+
Pytt i Panna {little bits in a pan}, is basically a Swedish hash comprised of piping hot bits of fried meat, potatoes and onion.
  • 4-6 potatoes, cut into small ¼-inch cubes
  • 2 yellow onions, diced
  • 2 carrots, cubed
  • 1 pound meat (beef, lamb, ham, and/or sausage), cut in ¼-inch cube
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • Parsley
  • 2+ Tbsp butter
  • 2+ Tbsp oil
  • 4+ fried eggs or raw egg yolks
  1. Chop the vegetables and the meat into small, even ¼-inch cubes.
  2. Rinse the potato cubes in a colander and then pat them dry with paper towels. (I chopped the potatoes ahead of time and soaked them in water so that they didn't turn brown. Right before I was ready to fry them, I rinsed them in a colander and patted them with paper towels to remove excess water.)
  3. Place 2 Tbsp each of butter and oil in a pan over medium-high heat.
  4. Let it melt and as the foam subsides add the cubed potatoes.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium and cook the potatoes for 15-20 minutes until they are browned and tender. (Once cooked, if you need to increase the heat to brown the sides, do so before removing them from the pan.)
  6. Remove them from the pan and drain them on a pan lined with double paper towels.
  7. Add a bit more butter/oil to the pan and add the onions and cubed carrots.
  8. Cook them at medium heat for 8-10 minutes, possibly longer, until the onions are soft and translucent and the carrots are tender.
  9. Remove them from the pan and place them on a plate.
  10. Add the cubed meat to the pan and sear on medium-high until all sides are browned but the meat is not completely cooked through.
  11. Reduce the heat to medium and add the vegetables and potato cubes.
  12. Cook a little bit more until the potatoes are warm again and the meat has finished cooking.
  13. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  14. In a separate frying pan greased with butter, crack an egg (one for each serving) and fry it over medium heat, reducing the heat if necessary to allow the egg to cook without burning the bottom of it.
  15. Sprinkle the hash with chopped parsley and top each serving with a fried egg.

Learn more about Nordic cuisine at the NORTH Festival 2013 in New York City. This post is a collaboration between the blogger and NORTH Festival 2013. 

NORTH Festival

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