Saturday, March 28, 2009

Auf Deutsch, bitte!

German post markEver get a hankering for something that you just can't shake? That happened to me this week. I was looking over some photos of a trip to Germany. We took a group of high school rowers on a month-long exchange program, and our tour guide was a foodie. We ate our way through southern Germany. I think we may have rowed a little as well. With that trip down memory lane I'd been obsessed with spätzle and wasn't gonna be happy until I had some. And what is the national meat of the das Vaterland? Pork.
Stuffed pork chops
Herbed Spätzle
Roasted Roma tomatoes
Stuffed pork chop still lifeStuffed pork chop still life (detail)
Stuffed pork chop still life detailStuffed pork chop still life detail
Tell your butcher you're making stuffed pork chops. He'll know just what to do: cut double-thick chops with a slit in the side of each one. In the U.S., we stuff pork chops with Stove Top, the Italians grind pork and veal for a filling. I chose apples and onions (Äpfel und Zwiebeln) because I love pronouncing it and the Germans love their apples and onions.
Double-thick pork chopsSeason chops with plenty of salt and pepper
Stuff chops with apple slices and caramelized onionsStuffed chops ready for roasting
Spätzle is a soft flour noodle. It's really not a side, but a base for gravy or braised vegetables. It's such an easy dough: flour, eggs, salt and cold water. The hard part is forming the noodle. You can buy a sort of potato ricer contraption, and if you're gonna be making a lot of spätzle or if people refer to you as Fräulein, go for it. Otherwise, use a box grater or colander and press your own noodles into boiling water. Roll up your sleeves and be ready for a big, fun mess.
Spätzle ingredientsSpätzle ingredients (detail)
Spätzle ingredients (detail)Spätzle ingredients (detail)
I almost went with red cabbage as a side, but wanted a time saver. Roasted Roma tomatoes were a good fit. The flavors paired well with the pork stuffing, and would spice up the starch side like a champ. Roma tomatoes are famously bland in this country. Like a lot of market tomatoes, they're picked green and gassed with nitrogen to turn them red. They taste pretty much like one would imagine. Roasting them with balsamic vinegar, garlic and a pinch of sugar transforms them into a Pantheon side. Intense and sweet, they taste sun-dried.
Halved Roma tomaotesRemove seeds from halved tomatotes
Roast tomatoes for 30 minutesRoasted Roma tomatoes (detail)
Stuffed pork chops
  • 4 double-thick pork loin chops
  • 1 yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 Granny Smith apples, halved, cored and sliced
  • ½ tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • salt &pepper to taste
Sauté onion and thyme in half the olive oil and butter over medium heat for 8-10 minutes, until deeply caramelized. Season with salt & pepper. Remove pan from heat and let onions cool slightly. In an oven-proof sauté pan, sear pork chops on both sides in the remainder of olive oil and butter over medium-high heat, just until brown. Meanwhile toss cooled onions with sliced apples and brown sugar. Once chops have browned, transfer to a platter and stuff each one with a ¼ of the apple & onion mixture. Return to sauté pan and finish cooking in a 350° pre-heated oven until the chops reach an internal temperature of 140°, about 10 minutes (chops will continue to rise in temperature once removed from the oven). If you're serving with roasted tomatoes, finish off the tomatoes first, then reduce the heat in the oven. The tomatoes will stay warm for quite some time.
Roasted balsamic tomatoes
  • 8 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise, seeds removed
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1½ tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 oz (2Tbsp) fresh basil, roughly chopped
Toss halved tomatoes with olive oil and vinegar. Arranged on a sheet pan in a single layer, cut-side up. Sprinkle with sugar, garlic, salt & pepper. Roast for 30 minutes in a pre-heated 450° oven, or until caramelized. Move to serving dish and garnish with chopped basil. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Begin sautéing onionsSear outside of pork chopsStuffed pork chops with roasted tomatoes and spätzle
Onions begin to caramelizeSeared pork chopsStuffed pork chops with roasted tomatoes and spätzle
Caramelized onionsSeared pork chopsLeftovers
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup cold water
Combine flour, eggs, salt and nutmeg in stand mixer with beater attachment. Mix on medium until combined. Slowly pour in water, mixing until smooth. Continue mixing until dough is elastic, 5 minutes. Bring 2 quarts salted water to a boil. Scrape dough into a colander. Press dough through colander holes into boiling water. Stirring occasionally, cook until firm, but still tender, 3-4 minutes. Spätzle will rise to the surface when done. With a spider, lift spätzle out of water and immediately into an ice bath. Drain and toss with vegetable oil. You can store cooled spätzle in an airtight container for a few days. To re-heat, shock in boiling water, or brown with herbs and butter in a sauté pan.
You will be transported with this meal. Immigration may check for a stamp in your passport afterwards, or you might just find yourself online booking tickets to Octoberfest.
Thanks for taking the time - Blog O. Food

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