Sunday, October 13, 2013


Oktoberfest Feast

     Oktoberfest is one of the world's largest festivals originating in Munich, Germany and dating back to 1810. To Germans the festival is called "die Wies'n", an abbreviation of the Theresienwiese fair grounds were the festival was first held to honor the marriage of King  Ludwig and his princess Therese of Saxe-Hildurghausen. Traditionally held for sixteen days until the first Sunday in October Germans would feast on traditional dishes and drink select beer only brewed in Munich and meeting specific quality standards.

     Today in Germany Oktoberfest is still held in the same place it has been for two hundred years. Now it is flocked with tourists who want to experience the festivities and taste the libations. All over the world similar festivals are held during the same time of the year in honor of Oktoberfest, and here in the states we have our own traditions. Many people have renamed the festival Octoberfest and lengthened it to cover the entire month of October. It is a general representation of the start of the Autumn season, a time for restaurants to once again bring out their Wiener Schnitzel recipes, and breweries to showcase pumpkin ales (Not exactly what the Germans intended). So we decided to go back to the traditions and bring an authentic German feast to your table. 

 Sauerbraten (German Pot Roast)

      Meaning "sour roast" in German this style of pot roast bears its name from the vinegar and herb mixture it is soaked in before cooking. Historically this method of preparation was necessary for two reasons, the first being to preserve the meat due to the lack of refrigeration and secondly to help tenderize the tough cuts of meat. Even with the advantage of modern refrigerators this method is still used to take an inexpensive cut of meat and make it moist and succulent.

Yield: 6-10
Prep time: 48 hours
Cook time: 4 hours

1 (3-4 lb)beef  bottom round roast
2 cups water
1 cup white vinegar
2 Tbsp pickling spice
1 Tbsp salt
1 medium onion, 1 cup diced
2 medium carrots, 1 cup diced
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/2 cup red wine
2 cups beef broth
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp salt
1/2 cup crushed gingersnaps
parsley for garnish

1. In a large bowl season the roast on all sides with salt and pepper. In a sauce pot combine the water, vinegar, pickling spice and salt;bring the mixture to a boil and then let cool to room temperature. Pour the brine over the beef, cover with plastic and refrigerate for two days. (If the brine doesn't cover the meat turn it over a few times per day)
2. After two days remove the beef from the brine and pat dry with paper towels, reserve the brine. In a large dutch oven or heavy bottom pot heat a few tablespoons of vegetable oil over high heat. Sear the beef until golden brown on all sides, then remove and set aside.
3. In the same pot add the carrots, onions, and garlic and saute until they have caramelized and released their liquid, about 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and remove the top rack to accommodate the dutch oven. 
4.Once the vegetables have browned deglaze the pot by pouring in the wine and allow to reduce by half. Then add in the beef stock, sugar, and the reserved brine and bring to a boil. Add the roast back to the pot and cover. Place the pot in the oven and bake for about 3 hours, until the roast is very tender. 
5. Once the roast is tender transfer it from the liquid onto a plate, cover with aluminum foil, and allow to rest.  Pour the braising liquid through a fine strainer into a bowl. 
6. Using the dutch oven or a medium sauce pan, heat the vessel over medium heat and add the butter. Once melted add the flour and whisk constantly to form a smooth paste, cook for 3-5 minutes until it has turned light brown. Add 1 cup of the cooking liquid and whisk until the paste has been well incorporated. Now add the rest of the cooking liquid, salt, and crushed gingersnaps. Whisk to incorporate and bring to a simmer. After the gingersnaps have dissolved and the sauce has thickened, thinly slice the beef  between 1/4 and 1/2 inch, arrange on a platter and generously ladle the sauce on top. 
Garnish with parsley and serve with spaetzle and red cabbage. 

Spaetzle (Egg Noodles)

      Traditional to the German menu and translated as "little sparrow" due to their shape these soft dumplings or egg noodles are simple to make and act as the perfect vessel to soak up all the sauerbraten gravy. The dough of flour, egg, and milk is soft and sticky so it can be pushed through a colander into boiling water. After being poached they are sauteed in butter or bacon fat to a golden crisp exterior and tossed with cheese or parsley. 

Yield: 6-10
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes

2 cups AP flour
1/2 cup milk
3 eggs
1 Tbsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp nutmeg
4 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Like cooking pasta salt the water heavily. 
2. In a small bowl whisk together the milk and eggs, and set aside. In a large bowl add the flour, stir in the salt, pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg. Create a well in the center of the flour and pour in the egg mixture. With a fork slowly incorporate the flour into the egg mixture, mix until they are combined and a sticky dough has formed. Allow dough to rest for ten minutes.
3. place a colander over the boiling water and add the dough. Using a rubber spatula push the dough through the holes in the colander and into the water. (depending on the size of equipment this may be done in batches)  Stir to make sure the spaetzle don't stick together and allow to cook for about two minutes until firm.
4. Remove the cooked spaetzle with a slotted spoon or spider and lay out on a sheet tray, continue until all the batter is gone. 
5. Heat a large saute pan over medium high heat and melt the butter. Add the boiled spaetzle to the pan, season with salt and pepper, and saute for about 5 minutes until golden brown. Add in the parsley, toss to coat and serve.

Rotkohl (Braised Red Cabbage)

      Rot kraut and sauerkraut are the prolific side dishes of the German region utilizing white and red cabbage. Their sharp acidic bite offsets the traditional heavy gravies and potato based dishes. Red cabbage can be eaten raw but is best enjoyed after being braised with wine, apples, and bacon. 

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 2 hours

1 medium head red cabbage, 2 lbs shredded
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp salt
2 granny smith apples, peeled and grated
1 large onion, 1 1/2 cup small diced
4 strips bacon, diced
1 cup water
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp salt and pepper

1.  Peel any bruised outer leaves of the cabbage and discard. Cut the cabbage into quarters, cut out the piece of core in each quarter, and thinly slice crosswise into 1/8 inch strips.
2. In a large bowl toss the cabbage with the red wine vinegar, sugar, and salt until well combined. Allow to sit for an hour, tossing every 15 minutes.
3. Prepare the apples by peeling off the skin and grating the flesh using the large holes of a box grater, reserving the juice with the flesh. Cut the onion into a small dice, and slice the bacon into small pieces.
4. Once the cabbage has marinated for an hour add the bacon to a deep saute pan and render out the fat over low heat. Once crisp remove the bacon with a slotted spoon (reserve to add in later and garnish). Turn the heat up to high and add the onions. Saute the onions until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the grated apple and juice and cook another 5 minutes.
5. Pour the bowl of cabbage and accumulated liquid into the pan and stir to combine. Add the water and cover the pan, cook on high for 10 minutes to slightly wilt the cabbage. Stir in the bay leaf, sugar, half the cooked bacon, salt and pepper. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to low, simmer for 1 1/2 hours stirring occasionally.
6. At the end the cabbage will have reduced in size by half and the color has intensified. Taste for a balance of sour and sweet flavors, garnish with remaining bacon and serve.

Chef's Notes
  • Sauerbraten can be made with a variety of inexpensive and tough cuts of meat such as bottom round, top round, eye round, and chuck. Choose what looks best in the market and what has the most internal fat or marbling because it will result in a more juicy end product. 
  • When brining the meat it is important to note that the longer you brine it the more tender it will become because the acid in vinegar begins to denature the amino acid strands in protein. With time though the meat will also become more flavored by the vinegar giving it its key sour quality, so if you prefer a less sour roast brine it for less time and if you prefer it stronger go ahead and brine for 3 to 5 days. 
  • Spaetzle is extremely versatile and can be used in place of rice or noodles. After boiling the spaetzle it can be eaten as is, or cooled and refrigerated for up to a week, or finished in multiple ways. It can be sauteed in butter , combined with cheese and baked a a casserole, or even used for a sweet application when apple is added to the dough and then topped with cinnamon sugar.

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