Tuesday, October 26, 2010

At Home with Hippocrene

This year marked the 200th anniversary for the Munich Oktoberfest, the harvest gathering which is the world's largest folk festival. If you haven't already celebrated Oktoberfest, this recipe from Nadia Hassani's Spoonfuls of Germany will certainly have you considering a visit to Bavaria for next year's festival. And even if you have, this delicious and hearty dish will become a go-to dinner as the temperature drops.

I have German heritage and it manifests itself in funny ways, like our tradition of sauerkraut with Thanksgiving dinner. Ironically, I live in Yorkville and had no idea when I moved to the city that it was once a working-to-middle class neighborhood of primarily German, Hungarian, Czech, Slovak and Polish immigrants. After the General Slocum disaster in the early 1900's, Little Germany on the Lower East Side on Second Avenue moved up to the 80's. Although the area has changed, there are still signs Yorkville's past with Schaller & Weber's grocery, Orwasher's Bakery, Heidelburg restaurant and St. Joseph's Catholic Church all within a few blocks of each other. I purchased my bratwurst from Schaller & Weber, and load up on all the varieties of Bahlsen lebkuchen there at Christmastime.

Himmel und Erde (Potatoes and Apples with Bratwurst)
(from Spoonfuls of Germany page 160)

Himmel und erde means "heaven and earth," with apples from up above, and potatoes from the earth. The poetic name could lead you to claim it's "heaven on earth"! Hassani notes that "this dish is traditionally served with blood sausage" but the sweet apple-potato mash is "a delicious counterpoint to any well-seasoned sauteed sausage."

Serves 6

2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 pounds tart cooking apples, cored, peeled and cut into chunks
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
6 thin slices ( 3 oz) of  lean center-cut bcaon
2 medium yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound sausage
1/4 cup hot milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter 
Salt and freshly milled black pepper
Pinch of ground nutmeg


1. Bring the potatoes to a boil in salted water until tender. Drain.

2. In a separate pot, cook the apples, sugar, vinegar, and 2 to 3 tablespoons of water until tender but not falling apart, 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Place the bacon in a cold skillet. Cook over medium to high heat until crisp. Add the onions and saute until golden brown. Remove from the skillet and set aside. I drained them on paper towels, to make me feel less guilty about cooking with bacon grease. (And the nibbles of bacon I had while cooking!)

4. Heat the oil in the same skillet and saute the sausages until brown and crisp. Cut into 1/2" slices. 

5. Combine the potatoes and apples and mash them coarsely. (While you're doing this, heat the milk in the microwave.) Stir in the milk and butter and season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Put the mixture in an oven-safe dish and top with onions, bacon, and sausage. Serve at once.
Note: If you use an oven-safe dish you can warm the dish in your oven before hand to help keep everything hot, and reheat leftovers easily. 

There are a variety of imported beers that would pair well with this dish, and many domestic brands feature an Oktoberfest option this time of year. Prost!

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