Sunday, June 24, 2007

Mathilde’s Sauerbraten

Marinate a 6lb round bone beef chuck roast in 1/3 part wine vinegar and 2/3 parts red wine for 6 days, keeping it in the refrigerator and turning it every day. On the day before the sauerbraten is to be eaten, brown it well in beef fat or bacon fat. Add 2 large sliced onions, 2 tbsp tomato paste, salt, pepper, 3 bay leaves, several nubbins of lemon peel, 2 good shakings of ground cloves, a few whole allspice, 2 tsp sugar, 2 cloves of garlic, and enough water to almost cover the meat. Simmer until it is tender, adding more water as it boils away. Remove the meat and strain the stock. On the following day, while the roast is still cold, slice it diagonally across the grain. Skim 4 tbsp fat from the stock; in it, brown 4 tbsp flour until it is chocolate colored, but beware of burning it. Then slowly add the remainder of the broth and let it thicken, always stirring. Taste it, if it isn’t tart enough, add some of the original pickling liquid.
Arrange the meat on an ovenproof platter, add 1.5 cups red wine to the sauce and pour it over the meat. Heat the meat through in a hot oven, just before serving, brown the top under the broiler. You’ll want dumplings with this of course.

This is officially the longest prep time of anything I’ve made. It beat out sour dough bread from scratch, and came in at a full week from start to finish. I like a long term cooking project from time to time.

This came from the weirdest little cookbook. My dad found it at a yard sale in the states and brought it out here for me. It’s fascinating. The version I have is a reprint from the early 1950’s so we think it must have been originally published in the 1940’s or so. It’s called Country Cooking, and it seems to be part memoir part cookbook. It’s the story of this man’s experience living in a small town in the country (I think it’s in the north east, because there’s a story about tapping the trees for maple syrup), and it’s also all these seriously country recipes (like maple dumplings and sausage, I’ve not gotten any takers for eating that yet, but I’m looking). The other thing about it though, is that he comes from German immigrant parents, so it winds up being this really great mix of down home country and traditional German cooking… hence, the sauerbraten and spaetzle.

It was not an easy book to use, because it had directions like “simmer until it is tender” with no indication of how long that might take. Making this was definitely an adventure.

I used a smaller roast then the recipe called for, mine was about half the size. It has to be kept in the marinade for 6 days, and it has to be turned every day. I started to feel like it was a pet the way it needed daily tending. I grew rather fond of it actually.

When it came time to cook it, I went with 2.5 hours of simmering. That worked fine. I don’t know if I could have done less time, it’s kind of hard to tell when you are boiling meat. When it came time to make the sauce, it didn’t say how much of the stock to add, and I think I added too much and made it too watery. I wound up having to reduce it quite a bit, and I did use some of the original marinade too (and then let it boil for a while since the marinade had raw meat in it). I think all this worked just fine.

The spaetzle was a really nice accompaniment to this dish, it’s the classic, though my husband pointed out that something salty would be nice on the plate too in order to balance out the vinegar-ness of the sauerbraten.

This was really good. At the first bite, I wasn’t sure, but it grew on me quite quickly. By part way through I realized that I totally loved it. You have to be a fan of tangy foods to appreciate this, but if you are, and you like a good long term cooking project, then you should give this a try.

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