A Stockholm Food Mystery: Steak with Capers

Rebecca Peters-Golden

by Rebecca Peters-Golden on June 17, 2014

Written and photographed by Rebecca Peters-Golden

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.

Stockholm, Sweden, via goodfoodstories.com
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.

steak with caper sauce, via goodfoodstories.com
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 . . .

RPGRebecca 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.

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