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For four years now I’ve been the chef at Henne Kirkeby Kro, a little thatched inn on Denmark’s wild west coast. I’m well and truly besotted with the place. The inn has been quietly lying along the roadside for more than 200 years, nestled within a sleepy hamlet. Years ago there was a school, a merchant, a cobbler, and a church—today I reside in the old cobbler’s cottage.

Life is full-on every year from Palm Sunday, when we throw open the doors, until things get rather bleak and we close in December. But I do fire up the stove for one last meal, a traditional Christmas dinner in honor of my glorious Hennefolk—my loyal, hardworking, beautiful staff who tread these boards all season. I love them dearly. Donning their Yuletide glad rags, and setting their hair, they relax and unwind. I look after the food.

Reindeer Denmark

We start with a once-a-year treat, wonderful sleek Danish eels, smoked over oak, served buttered and warm alongside creamy scrambled eggs from our farm. Clipped chives cut the richness. A little salad follows. Tiny leaves of baby gem, a creamy blue cheese from the island of Bornholm, hot toasted walnuts, celery, and green grapes provide a nostalgic, almost Waldorf-esque note. I serve it up against a steaming pot of roasted pumpkin and parmesan soup.

Our garden’s finest carrots, winter potatoes, and perfumed celeriac are creamed and glazed with the last of our well-aged Gruyère. It’s lush indeed. Then beautiful pork follows, from a farm called Grambogård on the Danish island of Fyn. Master Erik is my beloved butcher boy there, my meat-pusher for all of my 21 years in Denmark. Weeks before, I bring home pork that I salt and slowly smoke over oak, turning it into our wonderfully intense Henne bacon. Cut thick, pan-fried, and baked crisp over apples and onions, it’s called Æbleflæsk, a classic Danish winter favorite.

I roast a pork loin, on the bone, over bay leaves and onions. The crackling, crisp, light, and extremely moreish, is balanced by sweet-salty butter caramel potatoes and the sharpness of our pickled red currants.

Paul Cunningham's Christmas Dinner
Left: Cunningham Prepares the Feast / Left: And enjoys it too! Photo: Anders Schonnemann

We round off the dinner by demolishing our leftovers from the cheese box and a huge bowl of butter-baked pears with ice-cold cream and lashings of our late summer honey warmed in a copper pan. With loving smiles and groaning full bellies, we dance and wash down the day’s gluttony with iced schnapps and cold beers.

And just when they think it is all over, the after-hours hunger pangs begin to set in. There are no takeaway joints around here, no delicious diners or street-food trucks, so I retire once again to the kitchen. I secretly ordered a few little escalopes of veal in order to knock up a few wiener schnitzels if needed. I usually do this as an annual surefire hangover cure on New Year’s Day.

My crisp-breaded, butter-fried late-night schnitzels are adorned with sharp, salt-brined anchovies, capers, lemon, and snowflakes of fiery fresh horseradish to spice things up. The party continues until the winter sun rises over our Henne home away from home.

A Danish Christmas Feast

(And the Breakfast Recipes to Soak It Up)

"Pumpkin

Pumpkin Soup with Orange and Parmigiano-Reggiano

Pumpkin Soup with Orange and Parmigiano-Reggiano
Blue Cheese, Grape, and Gem Lettuce Salad
Sweetly acidic green grapes off-set the funk of creamy Danish blue cheese in this seasonal salad tossed together with a creamy cider vinegar–walnut dressing. Get the recipe for Blue Cheese, Grape, and Gem Lettuce Salad » Anders Schonnemann
"Roasted

Roasted Apples and Bacon with Onions and Thyme (Æbleflæsk)

In a classic Danish treatment, sweet red apples are roasted with onions, caramelized in bacon fat, and served under thick steaks of smoked belly bacon. Get the recipe for Roasted Apples and Bacon with Onions and Thyme (Æbleflæsk) »
"Celery

Celery Root, Carrot, and Potato Gratin

Celery Root, Carrot, and Potato Gratin
Roast Pork Loin with Salted Caramel Potatoes
Tart red currant jelly compliments the buttery-rich sweetness of these show-stopping potatoes and delectable holiday pork roast. Get the recipe for Roast Pork Loin with Salted Caramel Potatoes » Anders Schonnemann
"Honey-and-Butter

Honey-and-Butter-Baked Pears with Cold Cream

These sticky, caramelized pears get served warm with a glug of fresh chilled cream for a richly-flavored variation on poached pears. Get the recipe for Honey-and-Butter-Baked Pears with Cold Cream »
"Creamed

Creamed Eggs and Smoked Eel with Chives

Creamy, slow-cooked scrambled eggs make a simple but luxurious starter or breakfast during the holidays. Get the recipe for Creamed Eggs and Smoked Eel with Chives »
Wiener Schnitzel
Battered and fried veal cutlets—scattered with horseradish, capers and lemon juice—is the perfect breakfast cure after a night of holiday revelry. Get the recipe for Wiener Schnitzel » Anders Schonnemann

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