Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Germany

Flag courtesy of Wikipedia
Location: Central Europe, between the Netherlands and Poland
Area: Over 350,000 sq km; 63rd biggest in the world
         Slightly smaller than Montana
Population: Almost 81,000,000; 18th largest in the world
          Second largest in Europe after Russia
Capital: Berlin
Economy: Based on GDP per capita the 5th biggest in the world and the biggest in Europe

Source: CIA World Factbook

Next up in fast-forwarding through Danielle's life is...Germany!  And not only Germany, but Germany in Colorado at Christmas.

Why such time travel?  Sickness, tiredness, general lack of time.  What does that sound like?  Yep, that's right, time to have another baby!  And this time, although we didn't know it when I cooked this food, there were twins.  Turns out that makes things a lot more interesting.  There were a lot of foods I had aversions to, and just making a shopping list was difficult sometimes.  So bear with me.

Anyway, Germany!  As you may be able to tell from the Hetzel in this blog's title, my husband's family has some German in them, so they were more than willing to help me out with this one.

I found two recipes I wanted to do, and one of them was specifically a German Christmas recipe.  Thank you, sauerbraten!  It has to marinate for three days, so it is extra-special and usual only done for the holidays.

First you combine a ridiculous number of things and bring them to a boil to make the marinade.  The most interesting ingredient here is Juniper Berries.  They aren't really available many places.  So instead, my father-in-law picked them.  Yep, he found a juniper bush and picked the berries.  Talk about local sourcing.
By comparison, the rest of the ingredients are pretty boring.  Vinegars, vegetables, spices, mostly standard stuff.


I worked on the marinade while my mother-in-law salted and browned the meat per the recipe.  Raw meat wasn't really agreeing with me at the time.

Bottom Round
Brendan and his cousin were getting into all sorts of things they weren't supposed to, so we tried to improvise some child locks.  They were too smart.


And from there you combine the meat and marinade and let it sit for three days, turning occasionally.  This part sounds easy, but we definitely forgot to turn it for a while...
So!  The day of reckoning arrives and you add some sugar to the marinade and put it in the oven for four hours.  Then you strain the liquid and add gingersnaps to make a thick gravy.  Sounds easy, right?  It is if you have gingersnaps!  However, apparently all of them in the house seem to have gotten eaten over Christmas (how could that have happened?) so there was a last-second grocery store trip involved.
Crisis averted.

It got really thick and ginger-smelling.  I had never thought of using cookies as a thickener for gravy before, but think of the possibilities!  Like ginger snaps!  And...ummm...things!  First person to do Oreo-gravy gets a prize.

I thought maybe this would be good served with potatoes, and Kevin's mom suggested potato pancakes.  Perfect!
The meat gets cut up and served with the gravy.  Time to eat!
Our nephew liked the spread.
Everyone seemed to really like it.  The gingersnap gravy was a huge hit, and marinating the normally-tough meat seemed to tenderize it a lot.  With my ups and downs of being able to eat food, I was less sure.  I didn't dislike it, but just couldn't eat much.  The potato pancakes hit the spot, though!

This sort of thing is a really good way to use, as I said, a normally-tough cut of meat.  It is amazing what three days of marinating and then four hours of cooking can do.  Plus a delicious gravy.

Yes, those things seem to take a lot of time.  Most of it, however, wasn't active cooking.  I was actually surprised at how little direct-work it took, although I did have a lot of help.  I'm not sure I'll be doing this again, but if you want some German Christmas I highly recommend you try it.

Next time: More Germany

Thursday, October 16, 2014

More Georgia (But still not the state)

Georgia Flag
(Note, I am posting this without my "editor" Kevin looking it over.  I finally decided if I didn't post it I never would, so I'm just going with it.  Welcome back to blogging?)

As I was looking for something to make for Georgia, I decided I couldn't stop at one dish. Sometimes certain countries just have foods that speak to me and I want to keep trying.  Khinkalis came up repeatedly in my searches as definitively Georgian.  Plus they sounded good.  Meat dumplings?  I am in!  After looking at a number of recipes I went with this one.  The directions made sense and there were pictures!

I'm pretty sure I halved the recipe, although I could be wrong.  But at least this one is halve-able, unlike last time!

With some fancy Google converting, 1.1 kilos equals 2.4 pounds.  Yay internet!  And food scales!
The dough, which was just flour, egg, and water was pretty sticky, but not the worst thing with which I have worked.
Then there was a lot of kneading.  Lots and lots of it.  The dough was supposed to be very firm.  That takes a lot of work.
Unfortunately I hadn't gotten my rolling pin rings for Christmas yet, so I had to rely on Kevin's estimate for 1/3 inch thick dough.  I think it is his least favorite part of me cooking.  Then I got to cut the dough into circles - just like pierogi!  Don't worry, we'll get to you, Poland.

The filling wasn't very difficult.  Like the people who wrote the recipe, I chose not to use onions.  Instead it was meat, spices, and water to create a soupy mixture.
Caraway seeds!
Helping me cook.
Meat soup.
When you make the khinkali, you are supposed to put the mixture in the middle of your circle of dough and then fold it up around it.  If you get 19 folds, you are a good potential wife.  Or something like that.

I had a hard time keeping track of how many I was doing, nonetheless controlling it.  What counts as one fold?  And how do you get it to all stay together without making a bunch of uncountable folds at once?  Should Kevin have not married me?

Anyway, similar to other dumplings from the area, then you boil!  Unlike others, though, you are supposed to serve with only a sprinkling of pepper.
 
Only one exploded!  Make sure you don't let them get stuck to the bottom of the pot.
There is apparently an art to eating these.  You are supposed to pick them up by their top nubbin and eat the rest.  Then you put down the doughy part.  That way you have evidence of how many you have eaten.  Not for dieting purposes, but bragging ones, I believe.

That isn't a bad practice, because that part was a little dense anyway.  It didn't quite get fully cooked when the rest did, so you may not want to eat it.  As for the rest, it was still pretty dense.  Very very heavy.  Both Kevin and I agreed that it would have been better with the onion, actually.  Not a normal decision for us.  But we lived and learned.

We did actually eat some of these leftovers though, which was good.  It was just difficult to eat more than around three in any one sitting.  I don't know if this is intentional or because I'm not a good khinkali folder.  Don't worry, Kevin didn't seem to mind that there weren't 19 folds in all of them.

Next time: Germany