Oktoberfest: A Taste of Germany

This is in no doubt due to the fact that Oktoberfest is celebrated at almost every German restaurant, as well as other eclectic establishments, during the month. So with our minds set on the peaks of Bavaria, I and a few friends embark on a journey to one of our favorite German eateries, deep in the heart of New York’s Catskill mountains. Sans lederhosen, but with big appetites, we have our fill of the best Germany has to offer.

When October rolls around, I set my culinary attention to many things. One of them is most definitely German foods.

Needless to say, German cuisine is as varied as the many provinces of the country. Austria as well. I can say that what seems to be the connecting culinary thread, though, is a certain richness that defines German fare so brilliantly. We’re talking about a heavy emphasis on meat here. Pork, beef, veal, duck, goose, boar, rabbit, venison…you get the picture. Baked, pot-roasted or pan fried, it’s always cooked up spectacularly and serves as the centerpiece of every Oktoberfest dining experience.

The German love affair with meats is most evident with their amazing variety of wursts, or sausages. Hundreds upon hundreds of variations are served up regularly. Each with a particular combination of meats and spices that sets it apart. The bratwurst is probably the most popular. There are different takes on this delicious sausage, most starting with finely ground pork and veal and then flavored differently for varying tastes. Some are spicy, some mild. But they’re always superb simply boiled or grilled, and served with hot sauerkraut, mustard, German potato salad (no mayonnaise) and a hearty bread.

Another favorite is the bockwurst, or knackwurst. Also made from veal and pork, I prefer these prepared with sauerkraut that’s been flavored with caraway seeds and simmered with apples. Really scrumptious. Serve this dish with a substantial pumpernickel bread and lots of mustard, and you have yourself a feast. Oh, I couldn’t even begin to list the best of the wursts here. From fleischwurst to teewurst ot leberwurst (veal liver) they’re all a treat. Check out a German specialty butcher, and explore.

Now, with all this talk about sausage, I wouldn’t want you to think the wurst is the end-all-be-all of German cuisine. There’s so much here to enjoy. Sauerbraten comes to mind. A pot roast that has been marinated overnight in a spicy vinegar mixture, the gravy is usually thickened with gingersnap crumbs. Really different. I also love wiener schnitzel. Popular in Austria, it’s a simple veal cutlet that has been breaded and fried. Make it a la Holstein by adding a fried egg on top, and garnish with anchovies and capers. The yolk serves as a creamy, rich sauce and makes it simply outstanding.

Of course, there is a slew of side dishes to accompany your main entrée. Actually, I think they’re my favorite part of the meal. Root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, and turnips are usually served boiled. Simple but very appealing complements to the richness of the meat dishes. Asparagus, especially the white variety, are commonplace at the table when in-season. Cabbage as well, especially the ever-popular sweet and sour red cabbage you’ve no doubt tasted. As for noodles and dumplings, well they’re almost always present. I order a side of spaetzle noodles, made with lots of egg yolks, to keep my entrée company. So satisfying. I also like schupfnudel, a potato noodle that’s somewhat similar to Italian gnocchi. You also must try maultaschen, which are German ravioli. Stuffed with mushrooms, they’re simply divine.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention beer here. It’s the drink of choice at any Oktoberfest meal. Pilsner, lager, weissbier (wheat beer)…they’re all ideal with the cuisine. Depends on your taste. Be careful, though. The Germans serve it up in very large steins. Not too many if you’re driving!

Finish off your meal with a hefty slice of Black Forest Cake, or my preferred dessert, Kirschtorte, a popular cake made with cherries, and you’re ready to roll out of the restaurant or your dining room if you’re at home. No matter. You’ll have experienced some of the best food on earth. Auf wiedersehen. See you next week.

Victor Ribaudo


Pan Seared Pork Chops with Sautéed Red Cabbage

Why not celebrate Octoberfest with tangy red cabbage topped with tender pan seared pork chops? “Tender” is the key word here. How often have you bitten into a pork chop that was a bit chewier than you like? And maybe a little dry? Since the pork industry has met with considerable success in breeding the fat out of pork, you’ll see slabs of solid pink pork lining supermarket cases, pretty perhaps, but at the price of flavor and tenderness.
Come on, pigs were not meant to be svelte. Look at that round little butterball Porky. Fat, as you know, carries flavor and makes for more tender meat. So here’s how we have to counteract the movement to inundate us with tough flavorless pork. First of all, select quality bone-in pork chops containing a little fat. The meat next to the bone is always more tender. Then to safeguard against dryness, brine the chops for 8 hours and up to overnight. Sure it takes a little longer than just slapping them into a skillet, but the difference is worth it.
6 cups water
1/4 cup coarse kosher salt
1/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
8 whole allspice
2 Mediterranean bay leaves
4 1- to 1 1/4-inch-thick pork rib chops

Red cabbage
3 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 bay leaf
1 large fresh sage sprig
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
6 cups thinly sliced red cabbage (about 1/2 of large head)

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups low-salt chicken broth
1 large fresh thyme sprig
2 fresh sage leaves plus 1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1 large fresh rosemary sprig
1 fresh parsley sprig
3 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Bring 6 cups water, 1/4 cup kosher salt, 1/4 cup brown sugar, whole allspice, and bay leaves to boil in large saucepan, stirring to dissolve salt and brown sugar. Cool brine completely in refrigerator; add pork chops and refrigerate overnight.
Red Cabbage
Heat olive oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add sliced red onion and sauté 2 minutes. Stir in bay leaf, sage sprig, and dried crushed red pepper. Add sliced red cabbage and cook until wilted and crisp tender, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Can be made up to 2 hours ahead.
Preheat oven to 300°F. Remove pork chops from brine; pat dry. Season with ground black pepper, but no salt. Heat olive oil in heavy large ovenproof skillet over high heat. Sear pork chops in skillet until browned, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer skillet to oven and cook until thermometer inserted horizontally into pork chops registers 145°F, about 7 minutes. Transfer pork to plate (do not clean skillet). Add chicken broth, thyme sprig, sage leaves, rosemary sprig, and parsley sprig to skillet and boil until liquid is reduced to 1/2 cup, about 9 minutes. Discard herbs. Whisk in 1 teaspoon chopped sage and 1 tablespoon butter off heat. Keep warm.
Rewarm cabbage. Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Divide cabbage among plates. Place 1 pork chop on top of cabbage. Pour sauce on pork. A complementary addition is simple boiled new potatoes cut into quarters and seasoned with salt and pepper. 4 servings
Adapted from Bon Appétit, Sept. 2007

Photographer Bill Brady <a href=”http://bit.ly/9wFYxm” target=”_blank”>http://bit.ly/9wFYxm</a>
Written by Victor Ribaudo <a href=”http://theribaudogroup.com” target=”_blank”>theribaudogroup.com</a> theribaudogroup.comRecipe Provided by Phyllis Kirigin, aka sweetpaprika <a href=”http://sweetpaprika.wordpress.com” target=”_blank”>http://sweetpaprika.wordpress.com</a> http://sweetpaprika.wordpress.comFood Stylist  <a href=”http://www.preston-campbell.com” target=”_blank”>Brian Preston Campbell</a>Blog syndicated at the datingsymbol.com <a href=”http://datingsymbol.com/” target=”_blank”>http://datingsymbol.com/</a>http://datingsymbol.com/