A Proper German Supper?

November 13, 2007
Rausse Housie
7 PM

Christa has convinced me that we need to prepare a German dinner in honor of Gabriele’s birthday; of course he does not want to celebrate his birthday, so instead we pretend we are celebrating German food. After detailing the magic of spaetzle and rolladen, I decide to head in that direction.

For the life of me I can’t remember the cut of meat I bought for ‘my first rolladen’ in Brooklyn. I have checked my notes from a lovely woman named Vera Traut whom I met at a chef’s dinner at Savoy featuring Joel Salatin; the only notation on the cut is ‘bresaola’, which is an Italian term for air-dried beef belly that is typically rolled and sliced. Given that I have a brisket from Retreat Farm in my freezer, I pull that out and plan on making it work. Once thawed, I slice it horizontally which yields a single piece of meet that is 18 inches long and about ¾ inch thick. I slather it with whole grain mustard, slivered onions, magic bacon (Nueske’s, of course), and a combination of dill and sweet pickles. I carefully roll it up and tie it with twine; the roll is about 5 inches tall and 8 inches long and looks a bit intimidating. I drop it into a dutch oven and pack it around with other ingredients like onion, bay leaf, celery, and carrot. I measure out the spaetzle ingredients (from ‘the Joy of Cooking’) and then pack a bag of odds and ends that I hope will turn everything delicious: fermenting apple cider from Vintage Virginia, a head of red cabbage, the rest of the bacon, some Jamaican nutmeg, fresh apples, etc.

When we arrive Christa begins prep on a simple lentil and frankfurter soup; she chops mirepoix and sautees them, then adds lentils and water and broth and brings it to a boil. While that is happening she starts on her famous apple tart; she peels and cores apples and seasons them with all sorts of good stuff (including her secret ingredient, which I am not at liberty to divulge). I brown the rolladen in the dutch oven, then deglaze with copious amounts of red wine and red wine vinegar and add vegetables and broth and salt and bay. The lid goes on and into the oven with you – goodnight. While the rolladen cooks I slice the red cabbage, and sautee it with a tart apple and some slivered onion and cloves. I add bay, bacon, and the fermenting apple cider and let it simmer, covered, for a while. When the time comes for it’s final seasoning I want more apple flavor; Tim pulls out a teardrop shaped green bottle of homemade apple cider vinegar, and gasps as I taste it. Gasp indeed. The vinegar is so sharp and fragrant that it seems spicy; the sourness only comes through after my mouth stops reeling. I empty a shot into the cabbage, and add more salt.

We begin the spaetzle, but not without a benediction. Each time I have made this german noodle dish I have fallen in love with the irregularly shaped noodles, mixed of simple ingredients and cooked in salted water (or magical Polyface chicken broth, if available) and finally tossed in butter and parsley. However, I have always had a helper to provide the muscle that it takes to force the loose dough through a colander, and the mess afterwards (dried dough in and around the colander, a sticky spatula, and usually many drips) answers the question of ‘why not spaetzle everyday?’. We seek the Moulin, or mouli, or food mill – I have never had one at hand for spaetzle, but it just may be the breakthrough we need. Aha! There is a special attachment that seems perfectly suited to our task – feeling good about the project now. Tim is in charge and quivering with excitement like a puppy; we mix the dough and begin the process. The mouli is indeed just the thing, and sits tidily suspended above the simmering stock. No mess, no fuss. We toss the spaetzle in butter and parsley, cover it, and sit down for soup.

The soup is fantastic, hearty and yummy and punctuated with hotdogs (excuse me – franks). The spaetzle is delicious, although a bit gummy from sitting after being cooked; the rolladen is toughish but has good flavor and (of course) provided us with a delicious gravy to smear around our spaetzle. In hindsight I should have tenderized the meat and flattened it out a bit; I don’t think brisket is ideal for this application because it really needs to be cooked for so long that the bacon and pickles would lose their patience and give up their fun character. The surprise scene stealer is the red cabbage, which is succulent and tangy (thanks to the vinegar). I am told it was so popular that my recipe made an appearance at a vinegarmaking class that Gabriele teaches.

Peace and love through the judicious preparation of red cabbage? Don’t forget the bacon, the fermenting apple cider, and the homemade vinegar.


~ by a local notion on December 3, 2007.

One Response to “A Proper German Supper?”

  1. Как обычно, афтар нетипично написал!

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