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Old World Recipes

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When I was a young adult I met two people who would introduce me to the flavors of German Cuisine. Their names were Walter and Irene Grau. It was their parents who emigrated and they (Irene and Walter) would ultimately end up in Connecticut and open up a German/American style restaurant. The restaurant was originally located in my town of Deep River and was owned by Otto and Maggie Wagner. The Wagner’s relocated the restaurant to the tiny town of Chester, Connecticut and eventually sold it to Walter and Irene Grau. The restaurant was four doors down from my mother and stepfathers Tavern. The Grau’s did not change the name of the restaurant but etched on the glass door to the main front entrance were the words: Otto’s name is Walter.

It was my first experience with regard to the old world recipes of Sauerbraten, Weiner Schnitzel, and German Potato Pancakes. I only knew of “kielbasa” the traditional sausage of the Poles, until I saw on the menu at Otto’s: sausage dinners consisting of Bratwurst and Knockwurst. I did not sample all of the dishes back then, but later on while I owned my own restaurant I actually made Sauerbraten and Weiner Schnitzel. Otto’s had long been sold, both Walter and Irene passed and the restaurant became a French restaurant which is still in existence. Both of the dishes (Sauerbraten and Weiner Schnitzel) received high praise from my patrons. Not only did they taste good but I think they also provided welcomed memories of an earlier time when Otto’s name was Walter.

Sauerbraten is the German equivalent to a Yankee Pot Roasted Beef. Some of the major differences are that for it to be sauerbraten it must be marinated for at least 12 hours, 24 hours preferably. The spices that are used to marinate the beef, the herbs and liquid used in the braising process are also distinctly different. And let’s not forget, the gravy is thickened with crumbled ginger snap cookies! This recipe should serve 6-8 people. Ask your butcher to leave on the fat cap as this helps in the searing of the meat, adds flavor and keeps in moisture.

4 lb. bottom round roast
Shortening (or olive oil)
½ cup sour cream
¾ cup ginger snap cookies – finely crumbled.

For the marinade:
2 cups water
1 cup merlot or dry red wine
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. pickling spice
1 tbsp. whole peppercorns
1 tsp. salt
2 bay leaves
1 clove garlic crushed
1 small onion – sliced

In a saucepot combine all the ingredients and bring to a boil. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Allow to cool completely.

In a nonreactive dish or plastic bag add the beef and the cooled marinade. Allow this to marinate for a minimum of 12 hours and up to two days. Turn in the marinade so that all of the beef sides get a chance to soak up the marinade.

When you are ready to roast, remove the meat from the marinade. Strain the marinade into a bowl. Rinse the beef and pat it dry. Sprinkle all sides of the beef with salt and pepper. In a Dutch oven or roasting pan, melt some shortening or olive oil and sear the roast on all sides. Pour the reserved marinade over the roast. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cover the roast and roast for about 2 ½ to 3 hours until tender.

Next, remove the roast to a platter and cover with tin foil. On the stove top bring the roasting liquid up to a boil. Add in the ginger snaps and whisk until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat and whisk in the sour cream.

Recipe #2 – Red Cabbage with Apples
This is a nice accompaniment to the sauerbraten or with a nice roasted pork dinner.

1 head of red cabbage – core removed and thinly sliced
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
2/3 cup apple juice or apple cider
2 or 3 granny smith apples – peeled and thinly sliced
2 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp or less nutmeg
Pinch of salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper

In a large skillet deep enough to hold the sliced cabbage and apples, add the 2 tbsp. of butter and melt down. Add in your sliced apples, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and pepper. Stir together and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Next add in the sliced cabbage, the cider vinegar and the apple juice. Stir all ingredients.

Cover and cook until the cabbage has wilted down. Remove the cover and cook out some of the liquid until it is reduced by one half. Serve as a side dish.

Recipe #3 – Pork Schnitzel
I have my own and less expensive version of Weiner Schnitzel. Rather than using veal, which is the traditional meat to use, I use boneless pork cutlets which I pound down with my kitchen mallet. Pork is more economical and is the perfect substitute. Adjust the amount of cutlets depending on the size of your family or how many guests you have invited. If the cutlets are large, one per person is fine; if not, plan on two per person.

4 pork cutlets – pounded down to ¼ inch
2 eggs – lightly beaten
½ cup flour
1 ¼ cups bread crumbs
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp. granulated garlic
2 tbsp. water or milk
1 1/2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley or 1 tbsp. dried parsley
1 tbsp. butter and 1 tbsp. olive oil

Set up a “breading station”: Flour in one dish, the egg and milk mixture in another and last the bread crumbs with the granulated garlic and parsley. Salt and pepper each side of the cutlets. Add salt and pepper to taste to the bread crumbs as well. Dredge the cutlets first in the flour, then in the egg mixture and finally in the bread crumbs. If you have the time let this rest in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to allow the breading to firm up on the cutlets.
In a skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and olive oil. When the pan is nice and hot add in the cutlets and fry on both sides until they reach a deep golden brown. (If the cutlet doesn’t sizzle when it hits the butter and oil mixture in your skillet it means the pan is not hot enough.) The cutlets should only take 2-3 minutes per side.

I like to serve with Spaetzel or broad egg noodles. Gnocchi would also work or mashed potatoes. It’s up to your individual tastes. Make sure you have a healthy vegetable side dish to round out this meal such as the red cabbage and apple dish from above. Actually any vegetable works.

You can make a quick pan sauce to go over the pork schnitzel. The traditional sauce is butter, lemons and capers. My sauce is totally different. I do not clean out the fry pan after browning the cutlets. I want the pork flavors and the bits from the breading. I add in more olive oil and butter, brown some sliced Crimini mushrooms, and deglaze the skillet with chicken stock. I add in a touch of Gravy Master®, stir and then stir in some half and half. I check for salt and pepper to taste and voila it’s ready to pour over the pork schnitzel.

One more footnote if you will: When boneless center pork roasts go on sale purchase a larger piece. Slice as many cutlets as you need and save the larger portion for a pork roast dinner.


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