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German dinner a tasty season's greeting

| Sunday, Dec. 19, 2004

Alan Krueck, professor emeritus from California University of Pennsylvania, gives a holiday greeting his friends can really sink their teeth into. Instead of sending out Christmas cards, he invites them to his home in Brownsville for an annual celebration, including an enormous buffet he creates himself.

On the menu are a number of dishes from his German heritage. This year, Krueck made a sauerkraut dish, which he shared the recipe for. Kruek's dishes are authentic, but don't expect to have to shop in pricey specialty stores to make them. Krueck said that his friends call him "Al-Cheapo Grande" for a reason.

"I buy my sauerkraut from Big Lots because they carry Kuehne (a German brand) and are very inexpensive," Krueck said. "Generally I find all the ingredients I need for my recipes at stores near my home without paying the steep prices at specialty markets. Once in a while I go to the Strip District for something special."

Following in the footsteps of several German cooks on his father's side, Krueck continues to prepare authentic meals from his heritage. He regrets that his repertoire does not include the recipe for his late aunt's German potato salad. No one in his family has been able to replicate the dish. Three of his favorite German recipes are featured below.

Food is not the only way Krueck has shared his German heritage. He taught classes on German language and culture at CUP for 38 years before retiring this past January. His classes covered studies in German culture through literature, music, art and 20th-century cinema. He even arranged for members of the German embassy to visit the college in 1974, allowing students to experience another culture firsthand.

Germany's culture has a history rich in beef, lamb and pork dishes. Until the Middle Ages, the German diet mainly consisted of meat and its byproducts -- milk and cheese. Smoking, marinating and salting techniques were developed to store the abundance of meat.

According to www.recipes4us.co.uk , geographical differences and bordering countries have an influence on today's regional cuisine. Cooking in the north still tends to reflect the customs of the nearby Scandinavian countries. The diet there is much heavier than that in the south, with an emphasis on meat and potatoes. In the south, a lighter cuisine can be found with strong influences from nearby Italy and Austria. Also grain products are substituted for potatoes in many instances.

Krueck said the recipe for Koenigsberger Klopse is "Germano-Baltic soul food, and addictive for the 'nothing-but-ground-meat' population." But he warned that it's not a dish for lazy cooks: It takes more than an hour to prepare, and is labor-intensive.


Koenigsberger Klopse

  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of ground beef, pork and veal
  • 1 cup finely chopped or grated onion
  • Juice and grated zest of one lemon
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup fresh (not dry) bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 or 6 anchovies, mashed in their own oil, or a heaping teaspoon of anchovy paste
  • Fistful of chopped parsley plus extra for garnish
  • Couple dashes of allspice or a few gratings od fresh nutmeg
  • Pepper from a grinder: about 12 twists
  • 1/2 stick of butter plus extra for sauteing
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups beef or veal stock
  • 1 cup dry white wine (preferably German)
  • 1 heaping cup sour cream
  • 2 or 3 teaspoons drained bottled capers, chopped if preferred

Saute onion in a little butter until somewhat translucent, but not browned.

Soak the bread crumbs in the heavy cream. Add the lemon zest, 1 lightly beaten egg, anchovies, parsley, allspice or nutmeg, and pepper, and mix throughly. Do not add salt at this stage, because the anchovies will provide salt -- taste before serving, and then add salt, if necessary.

Add the above mixture to the meat and mix until nicely incorporated.

Wet hands and form meatballs to desired size.

Depending on the size and/or number of meatballs, take a saucepan or deep skillet to accommodate them and melt (but do not brown) the butter in it. Then add the flour and blend with a fork or wooden spoon until smooth.

Add beef or veal stock and whip continually with a whisk or wooden spoon until lightly thickened and smooth. Pour in the wine and stir.

Place the meatballs into the sauce, bring to a boil, reduce heat immediately and simmer for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking and to maintain a coating of sauce.

In a separate bowl, mix the lemon juice, 1 egg, sour cream and capers.

The final cooking can be done two ways:

1. Remove the meatballs (Klopse) from their cooking liquid with a slotted spoon and reserve on a warm platter, then add the sour cream mixture to the pan and stir gently with a wooden spoon before returning the meatballs to the sauce and gently warming through and serving; or

2. Combining the sour cream mixture to the meatballs and cooking liquid while still in the pan, using a wooden spoon to gently swirl all ingredients until everything is incorporated. Avoid bringing to a boil, but a fragrant steam should emanate from the pan.

  • Cook's comments: This dish is traditionally -- and therefore best -- served with mashed potatoes, buttered noodles, or buttered rice said Alan Krueck, adding that cooks can "fling on some parsley for decoration." Krueck suggests a good beer or a bottle of Sylvaner, Mueller-Thurgau or Mosel Riesling as accompaniment. He also said that leftovers freeze nicely, and rewarming should be done in a double boiler or very slowly at low heat with constant stirring in a pan placed directly on the burner.


    Sauerkraut und Wurste

    • 1 can sauerkraut
    • 1/2 to 1 cup of lard or bacon fat
    • 1 onion, sliced
    • 1 carrot, sliced
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 20 peppercorns
    • 3 cloves
    • Couple sprigs of parsley
    • 1/4 cup juniper berries or 1 cup gin
    • 1 can chicken stock
    • 8 ounces white wine
    • Weiss wurst (white sausages), bratwurst, kielbasa or other sausage of choice
    • 2 smoked pork chops or pieces of Canadian bacon, cut into 3/4-inch pieces

    Rinse the sauerkraut 2 or 3 times and squeeze well.

    Render the lard and saute onion and carrot in it.

    Add the sauerkraut, then add the bay leaf, peppercorns, cloves, parsley, and juniper berries or gin, and toss until well-coated.

    Add the chicken stock and wine.

    Put the mixture in a baking dish covered with foil, and place in a cold oven.

    Bake at 325 degrees for at least 2 to 3 hours, periodlically checking the liquid level.

    During the last hour of cooking, add the sausage and smoked pork.

    During the last 30 minutes, bake the dish uncovered to brown it.


    Grillhaxe

    • 1 smoked ham shank
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1 onion, whole
    • 1 clove
    • Cooking oil or fat

    Simmer the ham shank, bay leaf, onion and clove until just tender, but not faling off the bone. Let sit in juices until cool. Dry the ham shank with paper towels and rub generously with cooking oil or fat.

    Put in oven, at good distance under the broiler, and broil, turning for even cooking, until the fat begins to crackle and crisp. Scoring the meat helps.

    Serve with puree of peas or mashed potatoes.

    Additional Information:

    Details

    This article is part of the Tribune-Review's month-long celebration of German food. Next week, this month's winner of the Home Plate Recipe contest will be announced. Readers are encouraged to submit recipes for next month's theme -- Asian cuisine -- through Jan. 13. Please see the entry form for details.
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