In the weeks leading up to our trip to Sweden and Denmark, my sister and I had fun booking AirBnBs in each of the cities we were going to visit.
When I confirmed two nights in a cute apartment in Copenhagen, the host emailed me to ask about my arrival. “There is a very nice little porridge shop next door called Grød. I can leave the keys in there so you are flexible to come anytime you want.”
A porridge shop?! I’d never heard of a shop dedicated to porridge, but the idea seemed so adorably Scandinavian that I knew it would be the first place we visited after we dropped off our stuff. (It was right next door, after all.)
Sure enough, Chelsea and I stopped by Grød, which first opened in 2011 and now has four locations around Copenhagen, around 11 a.m. last Monday. It was early enough for her to have an oatmeal with caramel and apples, but close enough to lunch that I could get the tomato and Parmesan risotto. (We both had coffee. Of course.)
Within two bites, we knew that that tomato risotto was the winner. The oatmeal was fine, but nothing compared to the rich, creamy rice topped fat shavings of Parmesan, a pool of basil pesto dotted with halves of cherry tomatoes. After I snagged the recipe from the English-language version of the Grød cookbook (see below), we practically licked the bowl clean and planned a return visit.
Twenty-four hours later, we were back in the shop for our third bowl of porridge. We’d already eaten breakfast, so as a pre-lunch, we ordered the daals; curried lentils with tomatoes, cilantro, Skyr yogurt and salted almonds.
ALMONDS, my friends. When was the last time you had almonds on daal?
Well, I can tell you that almonds and lentils, topped with plain yogurt, no less, were a fantastic combination.
It was maybe even better than the tomato risotto from the day before, but the lentils got us thinking: Are risotto and daal porridge? Would a porridge shop ever make it in the U.S.?
A porridge shop opened in Brooklyn a few years ago, but it was apparently only a pop-up shop and is now closed. Savory porridge is definitely on the rise here. In February, I wrote a big story about how chefs, home cooks and even the people who develop new products for grocery stores are getting in on savory porridge.
But the problem with the term “porridge” remains. Even though many of us like to eat porridge and porridge-like foods ranging from fancy oatmeals to the kind of savory risottos and daals served at Grød, the word “porridge” (and its even uglier cousin, gruel) is associated with bland, boring breakfasts that our grandparents used to eat.
My theory is that a porridge shop wouldn’t make it in the U.S. if they tried to sell it with the term “porridge,” but if some marketing genius could come up with a better way to brand the wide array of sweet and savory, thick, satisfying and comforting dishes that they serve at Grød, we’d all be eating there three times a week.
Grød, by the way, is about to open its fifth location — and its first outside Copenhagen — later this year. The porridges cost between 40 to 85 krone, which is in the $6 to $13 range, and I would buy each of them again in a heartbeat at that cost.
Tomato Parmesan Risotto
For the pesto:
1/2 bunch of broad-leafed parsley
1/2 bunch of basil
1 cup olive oil
1 tsp. cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
For the tomato compote:
2/3 lb. tomatoes
1 clove garlic
4 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
For the risotto:
1 small shallot
2 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. butter
1 1/2 cups risotto rice
11 cups of boiled water, vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup roughly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and cider vinegar, to taste
Make the pesto: Process the ingredients in a food processor and set aside.
Make the tomato compote: Clean the tomatoes and cut into rough squares. Chop the onion and garlic finely. Heat a pan with oil and fry the onions and garlic. Add the tomatoes, cider vinegar and sugar into the pot and boil until the tomatoes are tender and stick together. Season with salt, sugar and cider vinegar and set aside.
Finely chop the shallot and garlic and put into a pot with olive oil and butter. Saute at a very low heat until the onions are tender and translucent. Pour the stock into a separate pot and let it simmer over low heat. Add the rice to the onions and fry at a medium heat. Keep stirring until the butter has been absorbed. Add white wine and let it reduce. Add about 1/2 cup of the boiling stock every time the stock has reduced. Stir frequently.
When there is about 1/2 cup of stock left, add the tomato compote to the risotto and let it reduce further. Add the Parmesan, season with salt and cider vinegar and serve immediately.
— From “Grod” by Lasse Skjønning Andersen