An onion soup had me fall to my knees, but a potato dish made me fall in love. With his cooking that is. Stefan Ekengren is one of my absolute favorite Swedish chefs. His food is packed with flavors, always with a balance of both taste and textures, and has a distinct signature. On top of that, he’s just a very nice guy. Ekengren is also the only chef I know (thus far) who runs his own blog. At Kökstugg (which I’m pretty sure translates to kitchen bite and not kitchen tug), Stefan shares his recipes, restaurant recommendations, his passion for food and stories from life as a chef. Luckily, Ekengren’s food is now even more available than before. About a year ago, he moved back to Stockholm to work as the head chef at restaurant Hantverket.
Stefan even brought parts of the old team with him from restaurant Galleriet at Görvälns Slott. At least his sous chef, Martin Lindmark, and the Finnish talent Oskar Mendelin. Some of the guys remained, though, and I’m sure they are still doing a kickass job out there. While Görvälns Slott, which is situated half an hour drive from central Stockholm, is more of a dining destination for special occasions, Hantverket is the opposite. Located in the Östermalm district within walking distance of Stureplan – a popular public square – Hantverket is a big restaurant and easily accessible and affordable. Do like us and drop by for lunch (only from Monday to Friday) or dinner (Saturdays as well), and let Stefan guide your selection. Ekengren’s take on Hasselback potatoes is a must, however, and the best version of this classic that I’ve come across. In fact, it’s reason enough alone to visit Hantverket. Hell, it’s worth the trip to Stockholm.
A Zero-Starred Restaurant in Stockholm
Hedda and I grabbed two of the counter seats at the bar which has space for about 15 people. That’s where you get the best view towards the open kitchen and all the chef action. It was a quiet day for lunch, or perhaps we came late, but in either case, that meant Stefan had plenty of time to chat with us while he prepared each course. We touched on topics like tasting versus à la carte menus – and the current trend in Scandinavia which seems to be moving away from set meals. Stefan is proud to run a zero-starred restaurant – because zero-starred is the new three-starred …
Additionally, we had a chance to discuss recent meals we had both enjoyed. Some favorites were easily agreed upon, like Lilla Ego and Adam/Albin, while others were a bit of a dispute. That’s the nature of the game, though, since food preference is highly subjective. If you want to know which places I’m referring to, and you understand Swedish, I recommend you to check out the excellent podcast Eat Drink Think Travel, where Stefan has been a guest multiple times together with his chef colleague and friend Tom Sjöstedt.
Stefan Ekengren’s Hasselback Potatoes Are Worth the Trip Alone
You should know, that Stefan Ekengren goes under the secret name världens äldsta kock – the world’s oldest chef. So even though he didn’t invent the Hasselback potato (chef trainee Leif Elisson did in 1953, at restaurant Hasselbacken on Djurgården in Stockholm), he was probably born way before that. In either case, Ekengren has perfected it beyond comparison to the original. Somehow, he has managed to make it incredibly crispy and packed with buttery flavor. Of course, it’s no less a stroke of genius to top the whole thing with sour cream and löjrom (vendace roe), similar to how you would serve a blini or råräka. Follow Stefan on Instagram to get a deeper understanding of the struggles of making this dish. Two hours are spent every day, slicing 40 kilos of potatoes with 40 precision cuts in each potato – leaving a base of 3 mm untouched that keeps the whole thing together.
My New Favorite Stefan Ekengren Dish
Every time I eat Stefan’s food, he gives me a new favorite. His onion soup at the chef’s dinner at Kontrast in Oslo made me go to Görvälns Slott, where I was introduced to the Hasselback potato. Which led me to revisit him at Hantverket, and that’s where I got one of the best dishes of 2017 – a struva. Rosettes cookies, as they are called in English, are traditionally made as Christmas cookies, by dipping a hot iron into a batter and immersing it in hot frying oil. You can see the tool used below. Stefan tops his rosettes with whipped duck liver, parmesan, and port wine. A small bite of crispy, light, deliciousness finished with a flavor explosion.
Another favorite this time was the wafer-thin slices of raw beef rolled around crispy Jerusalem artichokes, gruyère cheese, and roasted hazelnuts Topped with raw, pickled Jerusalem artichokes, cress, and a homemade soy-glaze. This dish brought back fond memories of a dish I enjoyed at the now two-starred restaurant Kadeau in Copenhagen. You better watch out, Stefan, if you’re not careful – they might give you a star! Or at least a Bib Gourmand, like your friend Tom.