Feeling Teutonic in the summertime

August 13, 2016

M'mm h'mmm. Sweet Baby Jesus, right here. Do this.

M’mm h’mmm. Sweet Baby Jesus, right here. Do this.

Y’all know, if you’ve read much of this blog, that I do dearly love me some German food. Sizzling wursts, heaping platters with sliced sauerbraten or schweinbraten, schnitzels, rouladen, red cabbage, spaetzle, potato salad, kraut, latkes…I could go on and on.

But most of it is cold-weather food. Those braises, those heavy dishes. What to do when it’s nearly triple digits outside?

What I did tonight: Potato salad, cooked ahead and let cool to room temp; red cabbage, cooked in the Instant Pot and frozen in small portions, since I’m the only one in the house that eats it; cucumbers in a sour cream and dill dressing (This stuff? To die for. Must get more cucumbers at the Farmers’ Market.) Knockwurst from the Aldi, which has a remarkably good selection of sausages; two bucks for a package of five, and I got two meals for two out of that.

Truth? I ate the veggies — scarfed them down, in fact — and about three bites of the sausage.

First off, the red cabbage. I judge all red cabbage by what I’ve determined is the Gold Standard: the roteskraut served at the Austrian Village, a long-time German/Austrian restaurant in Huntingdon Valley, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia. Their red cabbage is nothing short of ambrosial. I can get close, but I don’t know that I’ve ever come up to their standard, which is at the very top of the Sweet Baby Jesus scale.

The batch I made earlier this week was close. I detailed it earlier, but essentially, take a head of cabbage and slice it up into fine ribbons, about 1/4 inch. Saute’ them in your Instant Pot in a little bacon grease until they’re all nicely coated, and then add a third of a cup each of vinegar and water, about a heaping tablespoon of sugar, and either a chopped up peeled apple, or, in my case, because you had it, a half-cup of applesauce, and a sprinkling of caraway seed. Clamp the lid on and give it 20 minutes at high pressure, let the pressure release, turn it to low saute’, and reduce the liquid. When it’s reduced, taste the cabbage, add a little salt and pepper to taste, and add a half-cup of cream. Let that simmer a bit, and there you go.

GOOD, good stuff. Just about the right balance of sweet and sour, and the cream just ties it all together. It may not be AV gold standard, but damn, it’s close.

Then the cucumber salad, a new recipe for me tonight, and I am, can I just tell you, In Love. I will make this the rest of the summer, as long as there are cucumbers to be had; it is that good. It is, if I am not mistaken, the same recipe used by the Steinhaus Keller in Hot Springs for their cucumber salad that I tried unsuccessfully to duplicate on the fly a few years ago, and here some recipe siteĀ had done it for me and I didn’t even know.

Here is the recipe: Gurkensalat. If you are serving anything even vaguely middle European in origin, make this salad to go with it. It is, in a word, wonderful. The sour cream, vinegar, sugar and dill combine for the most astonishing taste, combined with the salted-and-drained cucumbers.

Two notes: The recipe advises to salt the cucumbers and let them sit for 30 minutes, then squeeze the water out. Take them at their word, and put a serious squeeze on those babies. I laid mine on a double thickness of paper towels, salted, drained, then put another layer on top and pressed. They could have stood to have been drained a bit more. Also, if your cucumbers are more than an inch in diameter, cut ’em in half before you slice ’em. Easier to eat that way, because there is a LOT of dressing-to-cucumber ratio in this recipe, and it can get sloppy, eating. I won’t have any hesitation in using more cucumbers per dressing recipe next time, either.

Do, as the recipe advises, make this a few hours ahead. It wants to get happy in the fridge before serving.

Finally, the potato salad. I’ve made German potato salad for years, but this is the best recipe I’ve found for it, even if I did forget to chop up the green onions and add them. My fresh dill is long gone, so I used dried dill fronds (not seeds), about a tablespoon and a half, and it was just fine.

Oh. The knockwurst. I picked this up on a whim at Aldi, because I like it for a change every once in a while. My preference is a brat that’s not veal and not processed all to hell and gone, but again, that’s a colder weather dish. Knockwurst, either sliced diagonally or, as in tonight’s dinner, split and fried, with a drizzle of mustard, is quite suitable for a summer version. Chicken schnitzel would’ve been good, but that was too much like work.

So the kitchen’s not overheated, I’m not overloaded, and I’ve had a good German meal. I highly recommend this one to you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em. It’ll make a good change of pace for you while the temps are dragging you down.




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