When Alex, Morten, and I first came to the United States, we were excited to share with everyone how we celebrate Christmas in Copenhagen. So we invited our team of new employees and our early investors to a Julefrokost or Yule Lunch—a great Christmas tradition. Only not everyone thought it was so great.
Back in Denmark, throughout December, and sometimes throughout January, companies, schools, teams, and groups of friends arrange these lunches. Danes usually attend three to four of these and then do it all again with the family. We can’t get enough.
We eat different pickled herrings (curry, cinnamon) in open-faced sandwiches on rugbrød (Danish rye bread). We also enjoy smoked eel and smoked salmon, fried meatballs and liver paté. We wash it down with shots of schnapps and aquavit. We sing. It’s fantastic.
Early Zendesk employee Matthew Latkiewicz may have called it, “Gross, so gross,” but he’s wrong, so wrong. And Julefrokost is more, so much more: We all sit at one big table and enjoy the joyous time together—or at least the joyous time getting drunk together. (Everything gets better with more schnapps.)
Also worth noting is Jul, or Christmas itself, because it involves potatoes rolled in butter and sugar, and whoever finds a whole almond hidden in the risalamande (rice pudding dessert) gets a marzipan pig.
Danes would love to see Julefrokost become as popular an export as the Ant chair, so I’ve included some recipes here. I am sure it will please our investors and stockholders to note that I did not spend my time writing these recipes. They are from a Danish website and were originally culled from Danish cookbook classic Frk. Jensens Kogebog (Mrs. Jensen’s Cookery Book). First published in 1901, I think it’s still a bestseller. May Startupland enjoy a similar run!
Try this at home (metric conversions for American cooks):
And med æbler og svesker
(Duck with Apples and Prunes)
1 duck (3000 g)
1 tsp salt
150 g prunes
¾ litre of water
3 tbsp duck fat
2 tbsp flour
Rub the duck with salt. Fill it with apple slices and prunes and close it with meat pins. Place the duck on a grid over a dripping pan and place giblets and neck in the pan. Roast the duck for 2½-3 hours at 160C, for the first 45 mins with the back upwards. After 45 mins, the fat is poured away and the water added. The duck can be browned later if it is not crisp, roast for approx. 10 mins at 225C. Check that it is thoroughly done. Leave to rest for approx. 20 mins in the turned-off oven before it is carved.
Pour away the gravy and skim it of fat. Melt the duck fat for the sauce in a saucepan. Stir in the flour. Gradually whip in the gravy. Boil the sauce for a few minutes and season with salt and pepper.
1 kg small boiled and peeled potatoes
85 g sugar
75 g butter
Rinse the potatoes in cold water and drip dry.
Melt the sugar in a frying pan until golden. Add the butter and put the potatoes in the mixture when the butter has stopped fizzing. Brown the potatoes over a brisk fire while stirring.
NOTE: Caramelized potatoes are not suitable for re-heating, for then they will not become shiny, but dull and furry.
Ris a l’amande
1 plateful of cold rice pudding (3/4 dl (deciliter) pudding rice boiled in ½ litre of milk)
25-50 g almonds
1-2 tbsp sugar
vanilla-flavored sugar or the content of ½ vanilla pod
to taste, a little pale port or sweet sherry
2 dl double cream
Blanch the almonds and chop them roughly. BUT LEAVE ONE WHOLE FOR THE LUCKY WINNER! Stir almonds, sugar and vanilla into the rice pudding. To taste, flavor with a little sweet sherry or port. Whip the cream and fold it into the rice pudding. Pour the dessert into a serving bowl.
Serve with cherry sauce or other fruit sauce.