Sunday, March 2, 2014

Fastnacht Kuechl

When you talk to most people about Easter or Lent in general they begin by telling you about their religion and the significance that has on this time of year.  But when I was a kid, all I would have told you about was the food.  Funny now because I am sharing my talent with all of you.

Most of you may know the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday as "Fat Tuesday,"  traditionally celebrated as part of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.  But what you may not know is that the Germans celebrate this day, and let me tell you, it makes me fat just thinking about these.  Remember though everything in moderation and since I had the time today I attempted these for the first time on my own.  The recipe is:

4 cups Flour                             1/4 pound Butter
3 Eggs                                      1 cup Milk
1/2 tsp Salt                              1 TBSP Sugar (or 1 Packet Sweet One low calorie substitute)
1 ounce yeast (1/2 of a 2 ounce household cake) (If you were me, you need 4 of the small 1/2 ounce packets)

1.  Sift flour into a mixing bowl.  Make a well in the center. Scald (make hot, you may see a skin form, but you don't want it to burn) half the milk, cool to lukewarm, add a pinch of sugar and dissolve the yeast in the mixture.  Pour into the well and with your fingers mix a little of the flour with the liquid let this sponge rise for a half-hour or so in a warm place.

2.  Melt the butter, add the rest of the milk to warm it, then add to the sponge along with the tablespoon of sugar, the 1/2 tsp salt and the eggs.  

Mix in the rest of the flour.  Beat well until the dough is very light and elastic.  This shouldn’t be a stiff dough; sometimes a little more milk is needed.

3.  Let dough rise again for 45 minutes in a warm place until doubled.  Measure this on your bowl - don’t use fingertip method as you would for bread dough.  Work the dough down.

4.  On a floured board, roll out a portion at a time with a rolling pin (or if you are like me and don't have a pin, and clean wine bottle works as well) to quarter inch thickness. 

Cut into strips two inches wide.  Cut each strip diagonally into three or four pieces, making diamond shapes.  

Put them on a clean towel in a warm place (like the range top) for about 10 minutes to rest.  A slight crust will form on the top, make a small well in the middle, making sure not to puncture the dough.

5.  In the meantime, heat Crisco until hot but not smoking.  Test with a sample kuechle, stretch dough slightly to a circular shape.  Put it in to hot oil crusty-side-down.  It should puff up immediately and brown on one side in about a minute.  When fat is right temperature, fry a half-dozen at a time.  When they are nice and brown ( it takes about a minute on each side) remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.  

Roll while warm in granulated sugar, or sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Makes 30 to 35 kuechles.

All in all these tasted really good for my first time making them.  I'll have the master try them next weekend and let him tell me what I can do differently next time.

Well that is all for now, i'll be taking requests on what to make next weekend.  So if anyone has any ideas let me know!

Grandma Miller's Famous Brisket

First let me apologize to all of you for the delay on this recipe, between wedding planning and a little car accident, things have been really crazy.

A couple weeks ago it was a special someone's birthday in my life.  This meant only one thing for me, dusting off the Grandma Miller Brisket Recipe (taken from Bon Appetit Magazine, year unknown).  I have tried making this recipe twice before, and each time was a failure.  Well maybe not a failure (we still ate them), just not the same as Grandma Miller. What did you have problems with, well let me list them for you:

- I used Ketchup instead of chili sauce (trust me don't substitute here, it ends up tasting like a salt lick). 
- Make sure you have the full recipe (otherwise you won't know to make the wonderful tasting gravy).

Now to the recipe, ingredients:

Whole Brisket (8-pounds, or less before trimming)
1 Large Onion (or 2 Small ones)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 package onion soup mix (each box contains two packages)
1 bottle chile sauce (I used Heinz as Grandma Miller was from Pittsburgh)
1 can or most of a bottle of beer (I used Yuengling)
1 TBSP Worcestershire Sauce
3 slices of rye bread (get fresh made from the bakery in your supermarket, trust me)
8 carrots
Fresh Ground Pepper

For the  Preheat oven to 350°.   Pat Brisket Dry with paper towel, to make it easier to work with and asses how much fat you have.  

Trim brisket of as much fat as possible. 

Rub Brisket with garlic and place the garlic and meat on top of a your stale bread and onions in a roasting pan with a tight fitting cover (I used a dutch oven).  

Over the brisket place the following in this order: fresh ground pepper, Worcestershire Sauce, onion soup mix, chile sauce and beer.  

Cut carrots into smaller pieces and fit around the brisket wherever you can.  

Cover and place in oven.  After 45 minutes reduce oven temperature to 275°  braise another 2 hours and 15 minutes or until done.  Once during braising, check to see that the bread is covered in liquid (I have never needed to add fluid, but that doesn't mean you won't).  When Brisket is done, remove from oven and let stand to cool (I like to get it out of the cooking pan and onto a cutting board).  

Make sure to get carrots out of the pan before making the gravy.  Try to start your potatoes boiling about an hour before the brisket is done.


Take the bread, half the onions, garlic, and 2 cups of the liquid from the roasting pan.  Place into either a food processor or a blender and process until blended.  

Return mixture to pan and combine with remaining liquid.  Cut meat against the grain and thinly for the best flavor.

Serve with carrots, mashed potatoes meat and the gravy.

My taster tried this meal for you and wanted to say that he truly enjoyed it, and that it was just how he remembers Grandma Miller making it.  I hope that all of you enjoy this recipe as much as we do.  My next recipe is an old Lenten treat that Oma has passed down.  This is one that has been shared in the past, and I am happy to be able to share it with you as well.  The recipe is Fastnacht Kuechles, can't wait to share this with you!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Beast

This week's challenge was to create a sandwich with Jarlsberg Swiss (or as the Wik's like to say Norweign Cheese).  Knowing that the challenger was a vegetarian, I tried to stick to that.  Don't get me wrong, I love meat but sometimes it's nice to take a little break.  With that said here are the ingredients:

2 Slices of bread (we experimented with Rye and Wegmens' Wheat Bread)
A couple slices of Swiss Cheese (enough to cover one side of the bread)
1 Potato chopped after baking
1 Portobello Mushroom, sliced
2 Slices of onion chopped
Pam cooking spray
A little Thyme crushed in your palm
A little Rosemary crushed in your palm
A small amount of Olive Oil for cooking your onion
A dash of Salt and Pepper

Begin by cooking your potato.  If you haven't baked a potato before it is super easy and can be very healthy.  Pre - heat your oven to 350°, scrub, and prick your potato with a fork.  Rub a small amount of olive oil on the outside and sprinkle a little salt.  Wrap potato in tin foil and cook for about an hour.

Once your potato is cooked chop it into small pieces, along with your onion.  Slice up your mushroom and your are ready to move onto the next step.  In a frying pan heat your oil, once the oil is heated cook your onion and mushrooms.  Add your potato, and season all with rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper.  It will look like this:

You are now ready to assemble "The Beast."  I suggest assembling on a cutting board, because it is a nice flat surface.  Put your sliced cheese on the bread and have your wonderful assistant put the filling on:

Your sandwich will now look like this:

Now the choice is yours, you can go all old school and use a frying pan, or you can use a George Foreman Grill.  I like both methods, but in the interest of time we went with the George Foreman as it gives you some nice grill marks.  Spray your pan with the Pam and put your sandwiches on to cook:

It only takes about 2 minutes a side, or until you start to see the cheese coming out.  Time to cut into the sandwich:

Repeat if making multiple sandwiches like us:

So, now our notes on the sandwich.  We liked the sandwich, but would add Dijon Mustard to the sandwich before grilling, as it tasted like we needed a little something more.  Seasoning on the sandwich was good, but we probably needed to add a bit more to get some more flavor.  About that potato, even though my lovely assistant was unsure about this ingredient, he said that it actually tasted good on here.  Our final thought was that while tasty, the sandwich lacked visual appeal.  In the future we would add a little roasted red pepper, to give some color and a little added flavor.

On next weeks addition we'll be celebrating a special birthday in our household.  With that, time permitting i'll be doing a double feature here.  The always delicious and requested Ruben Sandwich, and my third try at Grandma Miller's Pittsburgh Brisket (I think I have the recipe figured out now).  See you all next week!!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Beginning

Many people tell me, "oh you are such a good cook."  I'll let you in on a little secret, i'm not a good cook, i'm a cook who likes to try new recipes and see how I can change them.

I grew up in Rochester, NY close enough to Buffalo, NY to feel it's food influences.  Well maybe not the cities food culture, but I definitely was getting  food culture.  Here is a little background so you get to understand where I started my food adventure.

My Oma (Grandmother) came here from Germany with her family's recipes and the ability to make massive amounts of food from very few ingredients.  Most of her dishes were prepared with butter. When I would journey to Oma's house there was always food, and if I was lucky sometimes I was roped into helping.  I have to say this is where my love affair with food began, and definitely my drive to cook.  I will, from time to time share with you techniques from Oma's kitchen, but will not be sharing the recipes.  Now I hear your moans of sadness, but these recipes are old and not mine to share.  I will however share with you other recipes that I have come up with and come across.

 I will also be taking challenges from time to time.  Feel free to give me a food item that I must use in a dish.  Challenge could include Vegetarian, Vegan, or any other cooking paradigm.

My next post will be next weekend, with a challenge from  her post was about a sandwich she made.  This intrigued me, a challenge to make a sandwich with Norwegian Cheese (Jarlsberg Swiss) was put forth and I accepted.  Until next time...