Monday, March 20, 2017

Süss-saure Bratwurst -- Bratwurst in Sweet-Sour Sauce

Time-Life Books published a series called "Foods of the World".  Each small, spiral-bound book represented a country.  I have several in my collection and today's dish comes from the 1969 volume Recipes:  The Cooking of Germany.


I recall picking it up at a local library bookstore:  one summer someone donated many cookbooks and I had a grand time picking through them and bringing home new treasures.

The other day I came home with a family-size pack of bratwurst, so of course I headed to this sweet little book for inspiration!  On page 34 I found

Süss-saure Bratwurst -- Bratwurst in Sweet-Sour Sauce

To serve 4

8 bratwurst, separated
1 tablespoon dried black currants
4 whole allspice, pulverized with a mortar and pestle
2 cups cold water
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

It was fun crushing the allspice in the mortar.
Place the bratwurst, currants and allspice in a 2- to 3-quart saucepan and pour in the water.  Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low and cover the pan.  Simmer for 20 minutes, then set the sausages aside on a plate and cover with foil to keep them warm.  Let the cooking liquid settle for a minute or two, and skim as much of the fat from the surface as possible.

In a heavy 8- to 10-inch skillet, melt the butter over moderate heat.  Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the mixture colors lightly.  Be careful it doesn't burn.  Pour in 1 cup of the reserved cooking liquid including the currants.  Stirring constantly with a whisk, bring the sauce to a boil.  When it is thick and smooth, reduce the heat to low, stir in the sugar and salt and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes.  Slice the sausages into 1/4-inch rounds, add them to the sauce and simmer only long enough to heat them through.  Just before serving, stir in the lemon juice and taste for seasoning.  Transfer the entire contents of the skillet to a large, deep serving platter and serve at once.

My Notes

I really love the German method of cooking sausages by simmering them in a flavored liquid.  Sometimes they are cooked in a sauce, as in this recipe, and sometimes they are finished in a pan with a little butter to get them a lovely golden brown.

At the beginning of cooking.
This process, with currants and allspice, smells wonderful and tastes good.

I wasn't trying to get the sausages to 1/4-inch rounds.  I just got them somewhat close.

The sauce is easy to make.  I made sure I got a lot of the currants out of the sausage liquid and into the sauce.  It was hard to skim the fat off the cooking liquid while it was in the saucepan.  I ended up pouring it all into a big measuring cup, removed much of the top water and fat layers, and just made sure I had the one cup of reserved liquid with currants and allspice settled in it.

Thick and bubbly.
I noticed the cooked sausages were still pretty pink in the middle, so I heated them in the sauce longer than the recipe suggested just to make sure they were cooked thoroughly.  The sauce did not suffer because of it.

Stir carefully so they don't fly out of the pan.
I didn't have fresh lemon juice but I did use bottled.  I suspect you could use vinegar in its place and that might be more "authentic."

The Verdict

This was very tasty!  I thought the sweet-sour combination would be more pronounced but I found I liked it just as it was.  It did not have a strong acid "bite" nor was it very sweet.  The sauce's overall flavor was a light support for the tasty sausages.  The allspice made a nice background taste and the currants were, well, as good as currants are!  If I were to change anything, I would add more lemon juice, which would be a nice contrast to the meaty, slightly fatty bratwursts.

Success!  I served it with fresh rolls, and cantaloupe with a little of the Roman liquamen steak sauce poured over it.  Just a little, to get the hint of the umami and some of the pepper to contrast with the sweet of the melon.  The fruit marinated in it for about an hour, in the refrigerator.

I garnished the sausages with a little finely chopped parsley.
I ate the leftovers for lunch the next day and the sauce was still flavorful and intact.  It had not separated at all, even after it was heated in the microwave.

Everyone agreed that they would like to have it again!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Vitellina Fricta -- Roman Empire's Veal in Sweet and Sour Onion Sauce

Just to make sure we are all together in our thoughts here, veal is unusual and expensive around here, so I used some tri-tip steaks instead.

Last month I made the Vitellina along with Patina de Persicus, a Roman Empire peach dish with cumin.  I reported on the peaches and now I am writing up the vitellina.  I waited because I found I needed to do the recipe over again.

This recipe is also from The Roman Cookery of Apicius.

ISBN 0-88179-008-7

The translated Roman recipe is:

Vitellina Fricta  -- Fried Veal (Steak)

[Combine] pepper, lovage, celery seed, cumin, oregano, dried onion, raisins, honey, vinegar, stock, wine, olive oil, and boiled wine.

Mr. Edward's redaction is:

Veal in Sweet and Sour Onion Sauce (page 204)

1 lb 1/4" veal steak


1/4 t ground pepper
1 t lovage (or celery seed)
1/4 t celery seed
1/4 t cumin
1/2 t oregano
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 T raisins
1 t honey
1 t red wine vinegar
1/4 c red wine
2 t olive oil
1/2 c veal juices or beef stock

The honey is in the canning jar.  I used marjoram instead of oregano.
Saute the meat lightly in olive oil.  Skim the fat from the frying pan, preserve juices, and finish cooking in the following sauce.

For the sauce, first grind together pepper, lovage (or celery seed), celery seed, cumin, and oregano.  Add chopped onion, raisins, honey, vinegar, red wine, olive oil, and veal juices.  Blend.  Pour the sauce into the pan with the veal, cover, and cook very gently for 1 hour.

My Notes (Attempt #1)

I had two pounds of steak so I doubled the sauce recipe.  That turned out to be unnecessary, even a bad idea as there was too much liquid.

While the steak was browning in olive oil,

I started grinding the spices to make the sauce, using celery seed for the lovage.  Then I mixed in the other ingredients and blended them.

Sans beef stock.

Sauce complete.
Then, after I drained out the excess olive oil from the pan, I poured the sauce over the meat.

I think the steak was drowning.
As I mentioned before, it was pretty full and seemed like too much liquid.  But it did encourage me to keep the fire very, very low so the whole thing was at a very gentle simmer.

It struck me that cooking for 1 hour was too long but I went ahead and followed the recipe.

At the end of the hour I used a slotted spoon to remove the meat and other chunks.  Then I spooned a little of the pan sauce over the meat and put the rest into a small pitcher for serving at the table.

The Verdict (Attempt #1)

As I feared, the meat was terribly overcooked.  Chewy, rubbery, and difficult to eat.  The onions and raisins were cooked thoroughly.  I was disappointed at the sauce's flavor.

Not quite shoe leather but close.
Here's what I noticed:  During most of the cooking time the sauce smelled delicious.  I could not wait to taste it.  By the time the hour was up, most of the flavor had cooked out of the sauce and it was dull and unexciting.  My guest tasters and I ate our first servings but no one wanted seconds or to even save the leftovers for another meal.  That is telling.

I call it a failure.  Meh.  Blah.  

But it needed to be done again.  The cooking smells were too promising to abandon all hope now.

My Notes (Attempt #2)

This time I still had two pounds of steak but I only made a single batch of the sauce.  

I followed the same procedures.

You can actually see the meat!
This time I cooked it for 30 minutes only.  I tested the doneness by cutting the meat at 20 minutes and decided it could use a little more time.

The Verdict (Attempt #2)

The meat was still thick and juicy when it came out of the pan.  Not shriveled and tough-looking.

Yes, I made the peaches again!
I thought that it was cooked just to the right amount, where it was still pink inside.  It was still tender, too.

Yum.  Oh yes, yum!
I am so glad the shorter cooking time was a good idea!  

The sauce had an inviting scent throughout the process.  When I first tasted it, I was put off by the onions still being a little crunchy.  That made their flavor more potent than I anticipated and I felt that I didn't like the sauce at all.

But after I got past that, I realized that the sauce was quite flavorful.  The celery seed made an interesting musty,  mildly bitter flavor without being overwhelming.  The pepper was just a back-up bitter.  The raisins were a lovely sweet and I wanted more of them.  I felt the wine and red wine vinegar were too much in the background to really call this sauce "sour" but they blended nicely with the honey and other flavors to give a good, rich, and umami taste.  I liked it!

If I do this again, I would add more vinegar just to get some "zing" from the acidity.

I think the onions would have cooked more if I hadn't put them almost entirely on top of the steak.  I should have let them nestle in around the meat and add their flavor to it.  An alternative is to cook the onions a little before putting them in the sauce.  I would microwave them to get them "parboiled."

Success!  We all liked the meal and we ate the leftovers the next day, which were still tasty.  We hope to make it again soon.