To kick-off Oktoberfest bestest and oldest friend Monica and I hosted German Night. Monica, who must legally change the spelling of her name to "Monika" because its way more authentic and Ks are cooler than Cs, raided her Oma's recipe book and her parent's house for beer steins, German music, a German board game and even a collectible Oktoberfest German Barbie!
So with German blood flowing through everyone's veins but mine (I really felt outnumbered) plus lots of German beer, we set out to group cook a delicious German feast. Ja!*
I put out some radishes with salt, a typical snack served with beer during Oktoberfest. I also served some bleu cheese with honey (not German but I couldn't find German cheese) and really dark rye bread.
Tim made an appearance in my head and prepared some some of the most delicious Kartoffelpuffer (Potato Pancakes) I've ever had. Some potato pancake pointers: drain them really well over a strainer or a cheese cloth and wear onion goggles because it can get brutal grating them. Tim was crying like a baby. Then to kick him while he was down, Monika asked him to open a bottle of Riesling, because he has wine opening skills. All of a sudden the the cork pushed into the bottle and sprayed him in his already irritated eyes. (It wasn't Tim's fault though, I have a bottle opener that should be recalled). He was a trooper and still fried those delicious pancakes up to perfection and I would expect nothing less than excellent frying skills from Tim. We ate them with berry apple sauce and sour cream.
For our main event, Monika prepared Omi's Huhner Goulasch (Grandma's Chicken Goulash - recipe to follow) made with cornish hens and lots of onions and paprika. Monika got brutal on the poor cornish hens. I turned my back for one second and she cut them in quarters like a true German butcher's daughter. Arnt taught her well.
There's Monika (above) working the knife and if you look in the background there is a vile blue bottle of germaphobe spray that she sprayed on everything that the raw chicken remotely came into contact with, even her own hands! I was like, "Noooooooooo, Mooooonika!" She even offered to spritz Tim in the eyes to soothe his onion/wine irritation. I think she gargles with the stuff in the morning.
As a side I made Rahmspinat (Creamed Spinach) with boiled eggs on top. Tim though it needed to be creamier so I just poured in more and more half and half and butter to taste. I also didn't make the cream sauce separately and it was a lot easier and still great.
I thought it would be barbaric to eat some organs, so Monika fried up some chicken hearts in butter and shallots. It was the first time I ever ate a heart and it will not be my last. It tasted like yummy dark meat, my favorite kind. Thanks to that Julie and Julia book, I am not scared to eat any weird organ as long as its drowned in butter.
For dessert, the challenge was Altwiener Apfelstrudel (Traditional Viennese Apple Strudel). Neither Monika nor myself had ever attempted this before. I was scared. I did some research and found out a few things. Phyllo dough is not a proper way to make the strudel dough. I set out to make it by scratch. I have never made dough before. Ever. It actually wasn't that hard. Some flour, water and salt. Knead and let it sit in a ball in "neutral" oil for an hour. I interpreted that as olive oil since thats the only kind I had and I secretly wanted to insert some Italianess into German night.
Strudel takes a long time so I made the dough in the morning and left it in the counter all day. When the dough is ready, brown bread crumbs in butter. I was super excited about this. I had no idea that strudel had buttery bread crumbs in it. Let that cool.
Next peel and slice all those apples into tiny slices and let them sit in nutmeg, sugar and cinnamon while you prepare the dough. I used Gala Apples.
To make the dough super thin the technique is to kind of keep lifting and pulling it at the ends until you have a 2X3 thin sheet of dough that you roll the strudel in. Transfer the dough to a floured towel, much like flipping a cake onto a plate. Then butter the dough up. (I got a my first pastry brush that day!) Spread the bread crumbs on that. Then the apples. Then the rolling and more buttering. I made slits on top even though the recipe did not call for that and somewhat regretted it because it was a little drier than I would have liked. Bake at 400 for 20 min then 350 for another 40 min. Let cool then sprinkle powdered sugar on it.
After I served all the Germans the strudel with fresh whipped cream on top, I sat quietly waiting for their reactions, hoping they'd like it. Germans aren't always the most exuberant of people, they weren't going to get up and do a polka over some strudel, but I think they liked it. German night was a sheer success. Next time, Jaegerschnitzel!
*Disclaimer: I am using an online German to English translator for this post, so everything will probably be wrong