12 August 2011
The other day, I had to make a run to North Jersey to check out an accessibility van for my wheelchair-bound mother, and on my return trip, I decided to stop by a German butcher shop that I had passed several times while traveling that way for other purposes in the past. Since I had neglected to defrost anything for the evening meal, I decided to pick up some Nürnberger Bratwürste und Kartofflesalat, along with a jar of Hengstenberg Beets for dinner. My mother loves beets, and being half German, she also naturally loves German food, as do I (German food, that is, beets not so much).
Of course, being in a German butcher shop staffed by people who are clearly of German descent, I couldn’t help but practice my very rusty German on the unsuspecting shop assistants, and was pleasantly surprised to be complimented on my excellent German accent. The shop lady filling my order asked me if I had lived in Germany (I don’t look very German, so it didn’t surprise me that she didn’t assume I was German). She remarked that my accent was so good, she thought I must have spent years living in Germany.
My German teacher was a gentleman by the name of Dr. Rolf Schwägermann at Stuyvesant High School, and 25 years ago, my German was so good that I won, along with my classmate Robert Aftel, a prize from the German-American cultural society, the Goethe-Institut, which consisted of a trip on a Hapag-Lloyd container freighter from Philadelphia back to New York City. We got to dine with the captain and crew, and drink beer (being in international waters), and a good time was had by all.
Dr. Schwägermann taught me well, and also told me back in those days that my accent was very good. It probably didn’t hurt that in high school, I was living with my German-born great-grandmother, Nanny Patocka, who was still living at that time and who emigrated to the United States along with my then 4-year-old grandmother, Anna Seymour (née Patocka), in 1928. Unfortunately, I no longer have much cause to use my German language capabilities, so they have fallen into a state of utter disrepair.
I grilled a good portion of the Nürnberger Bratwürste for last night’s dinner, but I had neglected to pick up any sauerkraut. As far as sauerkraut is concerned, I only use German brands of sauerkraut that are packed in glass jars, because they are superior to anything I’ve been able to acquire since Karl Ehmer’s closed their shop in Flushing, Queens, where we used to get our German specialties.
Speaking of German shops in Queens, remind me to talk about Stork’s Bakery in Whitestone sometime, the best bakery I’ve ever patronized in my life; the only bakery I’ve since used that compared is Bobby Bennett’s Miel which now has at least two branches in the Philadelphia area. I used to sell Bobby gold leaf for his confections when he was still a pastry chef at Le Bec Fin.
All day today, I’d been thinking about what else I could do with the rest of the Nürnberger Bratwürste, and I came across a recipe for Blaue Zipfel, a specialty of the Franconia region of Germany, which includes Nürnberg. Blaue Zipfel is Nürnberger Bratwürste simmered with onions in a vinegar and wine broth. I had originally thought of perhaps combining the concept with a Choucroute Garnie, but once I got partway through making the dish, I decided to nix the idea of Choucroute and just go for the Zipfel. I figured I could always add the sauerkraut to what was left over, and there are plenty of leftovers, because my mother had cold bratwurst and potato salad left over from yesterday, and the rest of the family went to play mini golf this evening.
I like onions, I really do, but I only like them if they are well-cooked. Because the traditional recipies for Blaue Zipfel call for the onions to be simmered only, to my eye, they come out looking like tape worms rather than something I want to eat. In my experience, when onions look like that, I don’t like the way they taste. So, I decided on a modification that I call Amerikanische Braune Zipfel, in which I use Wisconsin-style bratwurst and brown the onions and the bratwürste very well before adding the vinegar and wine.
The result was delicious, although once again, I have failed to actually take a pictured of the finished, plated meal! It’s so good, I would actually order this at a brasserie or bistro if it were on the menu. (Are you paying attention, Georges Perrier, Olivier de St. Martin, Keith McNally, and Stephen Starr?)
Amerikanische Braune Zipfel
by Gemma Catherine Viola Seymour
12 August 2011
4 slices American-style streaky bacon, cut into chunks
1 pkg. (about 20 oz, or 5 large links) Wisconsin-style bratwurst *
2 large onions, sliced thinly
4 bay leaves
1 t. black peppercorns, ground coarsely
10 juniper berries, or 1/2 t. dried rosemary
1/2 t. caraway seeds
1 c. white wine
1/2 c. apple cider or white wine vinegar
1/2 c. water or unsalted chicken stock
2 T. brown sugar
Sea salt to taste
Sauté bacon over low heat until nearly crisp, remove bacon and reserve.
Sauté bratwurst over low heat in bacon fat until browned on both sides, remove sausages and reserve.
Sauté onions over low heat in bacon fat until deeply browned.
Return bacon and spices to pan, stir to combine.
Return bratwurst to pan, poking several times with a fork to allow juices to escape into broth.
Add liquid ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer 20 minutes, or until sausage is cooked through.
Test seasoning, correct, if necessary, and serve. The broth should be strong and salty/sour, with a touch of sweet.
Serve one or two sausages per person in a deep dish with some of the onions and broth spooned over the top. Suggested accompaniments are a good loaf of crusty bread or freshly baked soft pretzels, good German mustard, and a green salad. I enjoyed my meal with a bottle of Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat beer, an excellent Wisconsin-made Belgian witbier-style flavored with coriander. I also highly recommend Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy seasonal beer flavored with lemon.
* These are more fatty and heavily seasoned than the German styles of bratwurst. I also threw in a couple of Nürnberger Bratwürste from a local German butcher that I had hanging around, which is what would be traditionally used in Blaue Zipfel, although mine were fully cooked from the butcher. The Wisconsin-style bratwurst around here is usually Johnsonville brand, from Sheboygan County, Wisconsin. The Sheboygan area is responsible for popularizing this style of bratwurst all across the United States.
You can also toss in a jar of good German sauerkraut, and let it simmer until the liquid is mostly absorbed for a more Choucroute Garnie type of dish.
You know you love me…XOXO, Gemma