German Food With American Style

Posted: September 21, 1988

Autumn heralds late harvests and end-of-season crops, soups simmering atop the range and stews steaming on the back burner. It's the time of year when hearty is in and German-Americans are celebrating Oktoberfest.

Enter Great German-American Feasts (Taylor Publishing Co., $18.95), a cookbook that gets to the heart of the Deutsch kitchen, whether it's in Munich, or somewhere in Pennsylvania, Iowa, Illinois or Wisconsin.

The beauty of this book, which has been compiled by Cook House Press, is that it captures the American influences on traditional German cooking with recipes such as a Tex-Mex spiced pot roast created by the descendants of immigrants who settled in Texas.

German-American cuisine has become a distinct hybrid that manages to maintain its identity. One reason for this, the book, explains, is that many of the first immigrants' favorite recipes were associated with festivals and feasts from the old country that continued to be observed here.

Though German food is often thought of as heavy, Great German-American Feasts includes light fare with an American flair, such as grilled chicken and shrimp and grilled baby vegetables. The book also features menus for year- round dining, from an early autumn supper to a summerfest spread.

For those who still want their German food to pack lots of oompah-pah, the book doesn't disappoint, because it is crammed with classic potato dumplings, chicken and potato casserole, goulash with sauerkraut, wiener schnitzel and classic sauerbraten.

The book is primarily recipes - which are easy to follow - and includes lovely color illustrations. Some explanatory passages before the recipes would have been a helpful aid to those not familiar with German dishes. Here are some recipes from the book.

BAVARIAN LENTIL SOUP

1 pound lentils, washed

3 quarts water

1 meaty ham bone

2 whole onions

3 celery stalks, leaves intact

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1 large potato

3 large carrots, sliced

6 strips bacon

1 cup coarsely chopped onion

1 cup sliced celery

Salt and pepper to taste

Soak the lentils overnight in water to cover. Drain them well, and put them into a large kettle with the three quarts of water. Add the ham bone, the whole onions, the celery stalks and the bay leaf and thyme.

Peel the potato, grate it and stir it into the lentil mixture. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer the soup, covered, for four hours, stirring often.

In a small saucepan cook the carrots in water to cover for 15 minutes, or until they are very tender. Drain them well.

In a heavy skillet cook the bacon thoroughly; transfer it to paper towels to drain. Stir the chopped onion and sliced celery into the bacon drippings, and saute them over medium heat for 15 minutes, or until they are very tender. Take care not to let them brown. With a slotted spoon transfer the vegetables to paper towels and drain them well.

Remove the ham bone, the whole onions, the celery stalks and the bay leaf

from the kettle, and keep the soup warm over very low heat. Discard the bay leaf, onions and celery stalks. Cut the meat from the ham bone into manageable pieces, and return it to the kettle. Stir the carrots and the sauteed onion and celery into the kettle. Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the soup into a tureen, and crumble the bacon over the top. Makes eight to 10 servings.

BEEF CARBONNADE

1/4 pound bacon, chopped

4 tablespoons oil or butter

2 pounds boneless chuck or bottom round cubed

3 large onions, sliced thin

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon vinegar

2 bottles (12 ounces each) dark beer

1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 slice pumpernickel bread

1 bay leaf, crumbled

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

In a Dutch oven or heavy pot, cook the bacon until it is crisp. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain, and reserve. Add the oil or butter to the bacon drippings, and in it brown the meat on all sides over medium-high heat. Turn the heat to medium, add the onions and cook them until they are soft but not browned.

Add the sugar and vinegar, and stir to combine. Stir in the beer and the reserved bacon. Spread the mustard on the pumpernickel, and add the bread to the pot along with the bay leaf and the thyme.

Simmer, covered, for one hour, or until the meat is tender. Reduce the sauce over high heat to the desired consistency, and adjust the seasonings. Slice the beef, and serve it with the sauce. Makes four to six servings.

VEAL SHANK

1/2 cup olive oil

1 veal shank, 3 1/2 to 4 pounds

1 tablespoon coarse salt

Pepper to taste

2 cloves garlic, chopped fine

4 onions, quartered

12 carrots, peeled and cut in two pieces

6 celery ribs, chopped

1/8 teaspoon oregano

2 quarts water

1 teaspoon paprika

8 ounces tomato sauce

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Pour the olive oil into a roasting pan. Place the veal shank in the pan. Rub the shank with the salt, pepper and the chopped garlic. Add the onions, carrots, celery, bay leaf and oregano. Pour in the water, and sprinkle the shank with the paprika.

Roast the veal shank for 1 1/2 hours, basting frequently. Remove the shank and the vegetables to a serving platter, and keep them warm. Add the tomato sauce to the pan juices, and whisk to incorporate. Serve the veal shank with the vegetables and sauce. Makes two servings.

SWEET AND SOUR CABBAGE

3 slices bacon

8 cups chopped cabbage

1/2 medium onion, diced

1 tart apple, cored, peeled and diced

1/4 cup seedless green grapes

2 cups water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 1/2 tablespoons vinegar

In a large, heavy skillet cook the bacon until it is crisp. Transfer it to paper towels to drain and reserve. To the skillet add the cabbage, tossing it well to coat it with the bacon drippings. Stir in the onion, apple and the grapes. Add the water, and toss the ingredients together. Cook the mixture, partly covered, for one hour. Stir in the salt, pepper, vinegar and sugar, and cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, until most of the cooking liquid has evaporated. Turn the sweet-and-sour cabbage into a heated serving bowl, and crumble the reserved bacon over it. Makes eight to 10 servings.

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