My quest to learn how to successfully prepare at least a few German dishes continues. It has been… Interesting. Lately I’ve met with more failure than success.
Over March Break I made Hasenpfeffer (rabbit in wine gravy) from the recipe on page 60 of ‘Round the World Cooking Library: German Cooking by Arne Krüger (1973). It’s a fiddly dish, made all the more so by the fact that I’d never cooked rabbit before. I had eaten rabbit, but I distinctly remember it being gamier. Perhaps the one that I had before was wild-caught, where as the one I used was farm-reared? Whatever the reason, I was expecting more flavour from the meat. However, it was fall-off-the-bone tender and the sauce was quite nice. My only complaint was the saltiness: I double- and triple-checked the recipe, and it called for two tablespoons of salt. I know that when you follow a recipe for the first time you should follow it to the letter, but I should have let my good sense prevail and halved or quartered the salt.
Would I make it again? Only if the rabbit was on sale — it’s really expensive around here, and you don’t get much meat off of one animal. I think the red wine gravy (with less salt) might be nice on chicken or beef, though. It would definitely be worth trying.
This weekend I tried Hamburger Kasserolle (‘Round the World Cooking Library: German Cooking, page 35), which did not go so well. Someone like me who doesn’t speak German may assume that this is a casserole with ground beef in it, but the “Hamburger” in this case means “from Hamburg” — so the protein is actually seafood. First of all, this is a 1970’s book, so like many from the era it calls for frozen or canned versions of at least half of the ingredients, and then adds some rice and a can of cream of mushroom soup. I chose to go with an equivalent amount of fresh ingredients (I really can’t stand canned mushrooms, for example), and I think that went well. This casserole also calls for a rather large amount of seafood, which was nice, but pretty pricey.
I think that the reason I really didn’t like the end product was the artichoke hearts. The recipe calls for them frozen, but I couldn’t find them frozen or canned at any of my local grocery stores. I opted to buy them fresh, but despite pre-cooking them in the microwave and then baking them for half an hour, the artichoke hearts were rubbery and gross. They squeaked between my teeth when I chewed. Not pleasant.
Would I make this one again, even if I got rid of the artichokes? Probably not. I can think of much better ways to prepare seafood, even frozen stuff, than by baking it in cream of mushroom soup.
Last but not least, on Sunday I gave a shot at what I think was my first ever German sweet: Zuckerkuchen (sugar cake) from page 81 of Classic German Baking (2016). I took this book out of the library, but I’m starting to think that I may have to buy a copy of it for myself. Zucherkuchen is a yeasted cake, which is something I’ve never made before — every other cake I’ve made has been leavened with baking powder or soda. It’s a cake that is rich with butter and sugar, but not much else, so I can see how it would appeal to even the pickiest eaters, i.e. most children. It’s denser than most of the cakes I’ve had, somewhere between a cake and a square I think, and it’s cohesive enough that slices can be picked up and eaten with the hands. I was worried that I might not have got it right, but from the writeup in the book and descriptions online, I think I’m actually pretty close.
So would I make this recipe again? Most definitely. And I think my kids would want me to as well.