It all starts with leftover mashed potatoes. Real mashed potatoes, not that awful dehydrated stuff. The mashed potatoes need to be yummy in the first place- plenty of butter, milk and salt. Make sure your leftover mashed potatoes are COLD. If you try to make lefse with hot or even warm potatoes you’ll just get a gluteny mess. If you’ve made the potatoes kind of lumpy, you’d do well to run them through a food processor or a blender before trying to make lefse with them.
Measure your leftover mashed potatoes. You’ll add half as much flour as potatoes. I.e., if you have six cups of potatoes, add three cups of flour. Mix this up well with your hands until you have a soft dough. It should be a bit sticky. Now make golf-ball sized balls from the dough and roll each one out thinly on a well floured surface, turning a couple of times during the rolling. You should have a circle about eight inches in diameter. It looks a lot like a tortilla. You’ll have to keep sprinkling in more flour as you roll the lefse and it keeps absorbing flour.
Cook each piece on a hot, ungreased griddle (or an electric frying pan works well) for 30 seconds to one minute per side, till small brown spots appear. If it’s taking longer than this for the spots to appear, turn the heat up. Do not overcook the lefse- it may resemble a tortilla superficially but should remain soft and supple, more moist than dry.
Cool the lefse in single layers- don’t stack it while it’s warm! Once it’s cool, you can store it by stacking each piece with a piece of waxed paper in between. Should keep at room temperature for at least forty-eight hours, but I’ve never seen it go uneaten for that long. If it’s going to be longer than that, you can keep it in the refrigerator for about a week but that will dry it out a bit. Lefse freezes very well.
To eat your lefse: Our favorite is spreading it with butter and rolling it up into a tube. My grandparents liked to eat it with butter and a sprinkling of sugar. It’s a Scandinavian tradition to eat lefse with Lutefisk (cod soaked in lye, yuck!) on Christmas Eve. It’s also good as a wrapping for cheese, smoked fish, or leftover Thanksgiving turkey.
Lefse plays a starring role in my favorite Ole and Lena joke- this particular version comes from Byflist at Blogspot (Thank you!)
Old Ole was in bed dying. Downstairs he could hear Lena rattling pots and pans. Pretty soon he could smell the sweet smell of potato lefse wafting up from downstairs. And Ole thought, “Oh, my darling Lena, she’s making me potato lefse for my last meal before I pass on.”
Ole could hardly wait as the smell kept getting stronger and stronger. But Lena, she never came upstairs, even though Ole thought the lefse should be ready by now. So, with the last of his strength, old Ole rolled outta bed. He crawled across the bedroom floor. He crawled down the stairs, real careful. He crawled across the parlor floor. He could see Lena’s skirt swishin’ by the stove.
Old Ole was nearly delirious by now, so he made his way across the kitchen floor and started clawing his way up the stove. But Lena slapped his hand with a spoon and said:
“Ole! That’s for the funeral!”
(Thanks to Catherine Jensen)