Benløse fugler, which translates as “boneless birds”, is an old-fashioned comfort dish also referred to as fattigmannsfugler “poor man’s birds”. The name is connected to the shape and look of the oval rolls. There are two variations, one made with ground beef and the other with thin strips of beef, such as round and sirloin.
I came across several cookbooks from the early 1900s, which suggest using thinly sliced steak, or beef pieces ground finely and formed into patties, and topping each with beef tallow or marrow and spices, or with bacon and spices, before rolling into oval shapes. The beef is then browned on all sides before simmering in broth for about 1 to 2 hours.
While both variations are made today, it seems more common to find benløse fugler made with ground beef. The cooking time is also shortened from 2 hours to 20 minutes. For this recipe, I lean into this version with a filling of finely chopped onions, bacon, and the traditional warm spices found in the early recipes as well.
Serve these birds with a brown gravy (brun saus), vegetables such as carrots, and boiled or mashed potatoes.
Benløse Fugler (Stuffed Beef Rolls)
Serves 4, makes 12 beef rolls
For the beef rolls:
- 1 ¾ pounds (800 g) ground beef
- ¼ cup (32 g) potato starch or cornstarch
- ¾ cup (180 ml) milk
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 4 slices of thick bacon, cut into small pieces
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- 8 ½ cups (2 liters) beef stock
- 2 tablespoons (28 g) butter
For the brown gravy:
- 4 tablespoons (56 g) butter
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 4 ¼ cups (1 liter) beef stock (feel free to use the stock the beef rolls cook in)
- Salt and pepper
In a food processor, or large bowl using your hands, combine the ground beef, potato starch or cornstarch, milk, salt and pepper until smooth and well blended. Divide the beef mixture into 12 equal rounds and flatten into patties by pressing down with wet hands.
In a medium bowl, combine the onion, bacon, ground cloves, ground ginger, and ground nutmeg. Divide the onion mixture among the beef patties and place in the center of each. Using wet hands, roll the beef patties around the filling and form into oval shapes.
In a large pot, bring the stock to a gentle simmer over medium heat.
In a large frying pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the stuffed beef rolls and sear on all sides until brown. Transfer the seared rolls to the stock and simmer gently for 15 to 20 minutes or until cooked through.
For the brown gravy, in a medium pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat and cook until starting to brown. Whisk in the flour and cook for about 1 to 2 minutes or until the mixture turns golden brown. Slowly pour in the stock, whisking constantly, until smooth and combined. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes or until thickened. If you prefer a thinner gravy, just add more stock.
Serve the benløse fugler immediately with the brown gravy, vegetables of your choice, and boiled or mashed potatoes.