When I first stepped out of the cab into the center of Stockholm, I stared, slack-jawed, at a jewel-blue sky filled with the kind of puffy clouds I had always thought were the province solely of a Jacob van Ruisdael painting. The city, consisting of fourteen islands connected by waterways, was a harmony of history and modernization—in some places a maze of uneven alleyways that opened onto cobblestone squares, and in others wide swaths of parks studded with glittering modern architecture.
The thing I was most excited by, though, was the food. Breakfasts of cold meats and cheeses got me ready for a day of walking (and girded my loins against how shockingly attractive and fit everyone was) and lingonberry jam was a total delight. Because I was there in the summer, the weather was mild and the sun was beginning to set around 10:00 pm. Nearly every restaurant had its doors flung open to the fresh air and half its tables on the patio, each chair draped with a thick blanket should you want to snuggle up when the temperature dropped.
Dinner started late and diners lingered into the night as the sun set over the water. Unlike outdoor restaurants in Paris, though, where you might linger over a cheese plate or a glass of wine, I found Swedish food hearty and unfamiliar, the taste combinations unexpected. Though I didn’t try anything so adventurous as reindeer or Surströmming (fermented Baltic herring), I loved the simple preparations of local ingredients that prevailed across the city.
My favorite dish was steak stuffed with capers, served in a caper sauce. In Gamla stan (The Old town), my mother and I sat at a restaurant outside, in a tucked-away square filled with restaurants, ice cream vendors, and busking fiddlers, not far from the Nobel Prize Museum. When I bit into the steak, the juice from the capers blended with the seared meat in a flood of savory flavor. It’s such a simple combination, but one I’d never tried before.
Though my visit to Stockholm was four long years ago, I’ve thought of this steak ever since I returned home and have always meant to try and replicate its memorable flavor. But, though I saw the dish listed on multiple menus in Stockholm, I couldn’t find a recipe for it anywhere, despite my frantic Googling. Finally, I decided that if the world wide web and multiple cookbooks wouldn’t yield the recipe up to me, then I’d have to create my own version. What I came up with combines my favorite elements of steak au poivre with the wonderful brininess of capers for a steak that tastes both rich and bright.
Though the steak I had in Stockholm was served with fries, I prepared mine with some shiitake mushrooms sautéed with a little garlic; they capture a similar earthiness to potatoes, but mix better with capers. I’ve used a London broil here, but a flank steak might be better, as it’s a bit of a thinner cut. The result was a tangy steak and rich mushroom dish that only took about twenty minutes to prepare.
Now that I know steak and capers go so well, I think next time I’ll try to incorporate sour cream into the sauce for a more Swedish flavor profile. Now if only the summer weather in Philadelphia could be more like Stockholm . . .
Stockholm Steak with Capers
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes
Makes 1 serving
- 1/2 pound steak, the cut of your choice (I used London broil; you might try flank steak)
- salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 3 tablespoons butter, divided
- 2 shallots, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 2 tablespoons brandy (or to taste)
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 1 tablespoon caper brine
- fresh chives for garnish
Season your steak with salt and pepper on both sides and let it sit while you slice your shallots, mince your garlic, and prepare whatever side you’re making with it (I recommend shiitake mushrooms sautéed with a little garlic and butter).
To cook your steak, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering and set your steak in the pan. Cook about 4 minutes on each side (if you’re using a London broil, as I did) for medium, or until a meat thermometer registers 145˚F. When you have only a minute or two left of your cooking time, add 1 tablespoon of butter to the pan to finish your steak. Remove the steak from the pan and let it rest.
Using the same pan, turn the heat down to medium, then add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and your shallots, sautéing for a minute or two. Add garlic and cook for another minute, adding salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the white wine, brandy, capers, and caper brine. Turn heat down to medium-low, add remaining 2 tablespoons butter, and finish the sauce.
I like to slice my steak before topping with sauce, so more of the meat absorbs it. Slice the steak and spoon sauce over the top. Finish by snipping a few chives over the top. Smaklig måltid!
Rebecca is a writer living in Philadelphia. When not writing fiction and poetry, she blogs about young adult books at Crunchings & Munchings and copy edits at Hermes Editing. She likes bonfires, winter beaches, minor chord harmonies, and cheese. But mostly cheese.