Sweet, simple fare is secret to success of Norske Nook book

June 30, 1993|By Charles Britton | Charles Britton,Copley News Service

Land sakes alive! There she was, Helen Myhre, a motherly looking "farm wife" and proprietor of the Norske Nook in Osseo, Wis. (population 1,500), when the next thing you know, fame came knocking at the door of her little cafe.

The Norske Nook, which sounds like something Garrison Keillor would invent as a hangout for his Norwegian bachelor farmers, somehow hit the big time. It won acclaim in the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and Esquire and even made it onto David Letterman's show.

TV crews parked out front; Charles Kuralt and Willard Scott paid calls.

This place, the big-city fellers shouted, served some of the best food in the country.

"Plain farm cooking," responded Ms. Myhre, presumably smoothing her apron as she did so. Heavenly days! This whole thing is beginning to sound like one of Mr. Keillor's stories.

Such is the progress of fame that there had to have been a book deal in the works somewhere, so here we have "Farm Recipes and Food Secrets From the Norske Nook," (Crown, $24) written with local journalist Mona Vold, who, the publisher assures us, grew up on a dairy farm.

Because my publisher won't finance a trip to Osseo so I could check out the food at Norske Nook personally -- most unreasonable, if you ask me -- I have only documentary evidence to go on. Fortunately, this includes the cafe menu, sent along in the press kit.

Among sandwiches ("all served with chips and pickle") is a California Burger, which evidently gains its designation because it includes "mayo, lettuce, onion and tomato." You can order hot pork and gravy for all of $2.85, mashed potatoes 40 cents extra.

Dinner prices rise as high as $9.95, which gets you a 16-ounce T-bone "served with cottage cheese, coleslaw or lettuce salad, American fries, hash browns, or french fries and homemade rolls or bread."

Dessert comes separately, but this course is the great specialite de la maison, judging from published accounts and the fact that recipes for sweets take up about half the book.

Among a number of cookies, we have the following.

"I'd bet my life," writes Ms. Myhre (or Ms. Vold), "that there isn't anyone who grew up on a farm, or for that matter, in rural America, who doesn't remember the white filled cookie."

White filled farm cookies

Makes 50 to 60 cookies

FILLING:

2 cups dates

1/2 cup sugar

3 tablespoons flour

1 cup boiling water

COOKIE DOUGH:

2 cups sugar

1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter

1 cup butter-flavor shortening

2 eggs, well beaten

2 cups sour cream

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

4 cups flour

1 cup flour for rolling out

For filling, put dates, sugar, flour and water in medium saucepan over medium heat and boil until thick, being careful not to scorch it. Cool before using.

For cookies, heat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together sugar, butter and shortening in large bowl; add eggs and mix. Add sour cream, stirring well. Add baking soda, salt and flour and "stir together real good." Pat dough out onto floured board or table; roll out 1/8 inch thick. (For chewier cookie, roll out to 1/4 -inch thickness, in which case yield will be less.)

Cut out cookies with round cutter. Place on cookie sheet.

"Take a dab of filling and drop it in the middle of the cookie. Put another cookie on top, and press the edges together with a fork or your finger to seal. Or like my mother, just fill half the cookie and flop the other half over to cover the filling, and seal around the edges. You get half a cookie."

Bake 12 minutes, until light brown.

Charles Britton is food editor of The Daily Breeze in Torrance, Calif.

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