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)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Lamb chops, Cabrito, and Caprettu

Hippocrene Books has recently added a new cookbook to the family, Corsican Cuisine: Flavors from the Perfumed Isle. Arthur L. Meyer "brings the rich essence of Corsican foods to life" with "simple, rustic recipes" that will have you dreaming about a Mediterranean vacation. Art is here today to share one of his favorites:

            I love lamb chops. My mom made them regularly when I was growing up in New York City. There’s something about the crisp, golden fat that surrounds lamb rib chops when they have been broiled under a searing flame, and the rich taste subtly different from beef. Whenever life’s stresses require a comfort food, broiled lamb chops with sautéed spinach and mashed potatoes appear on my dinner menu. My mom always had a set of fixed side dishes with every entrée, and she always rolled her eyes when I would mix the spinach and potatoes together. I think the mélange tempered the metallic off-taste that spinach has on the adolescent palate.
           I’ve been living in central Texas for almost forty years now, and the best culinary surprise came the first time I was introduced to cabrito, which is baby goat. Here in Texas we like to cook outdoors over hardwood coals, especially oak, pecan and mesquite. I was invited to a barbecue just weeks after arriving in Austin, and the featured dish was roasted cabrito, turned slowly over pecan wood. The first whiff of smoke as I arrived at the ranch sent me into a lamb chop flashback. It smelled exactly like the smoke emanating from my mom’s oven broiler when she made lamb chops. I knew immediately that this was the beginning of a love affair with all that is goat meat. To this day, when visiting friends in south Texas near Mexico, they know to plan a trip to Nuevo Progresso for a visit to La Fogata, a small restaurant specializing in roasted whole baby goats. The kitchen is a twenty foot long trough filled with glowing coals, with about thirty goats splayed out on skewers, slowly turned by the grill man, in succession, as he walks the perimeter of the trough. The skin of the cabrito becomes just like the fat surrounding my beloved lamb chops, with a flavor almost identical to them.