I have to admit to being given this book, Culinaria Germany, almost a year ago, and never having been particularly interested in the cuisine of Germany, (sad to say) hadn't gotten around to really digging into it until this week. What made me pull the heavy tome off the shelf was reading Cynthia Bertelsen's review of Culinaria Russia, which she entitled: A Picture Cookbook for Grownups. It made me realize that I owned one of that series of big fat picture cookbooks and needed to get it out immediately.
Unfortunately for those of us in Hilo, Hawaii, where bookstores fold to be replaced by ever more drug stores, I may have to wait. These are heavy books and the postage would be astronomical if ordered online. They are at least on my wish list.
I determined to work my way from front to back, but kept getting sidetracked, jumping around with so much to absorb, leaving various bookmarks. The book is organized according to the country's regions, the first area being Thuringia. And, it is here that dumplings first begin to be mentioned in all their splendid variety, appropriately in a section entitled "Dumplings with.... " Now I do have an old recipe favorite, Chicken Paprika with Dumplings, which I haven't made in quite a few years (it too needs to come back into circulation) but that was the extent of my dumplings acquaintanceship.
Reading various notes on the German dumpling obsession made me realize that they presented another opportunity to utilize breadcrumbs. Oh Boy! Using things up in a good frugal, sustainable manner may be part of my heritage. I am at least half German you see, my mother being an Ulmen, whose ancestors were from Ulm in Germany. Anyway, the Germans seem to have almost completely converted to the New World potato in their dumpling mixtures, but originally (and I like to go back to origins) it was bread bits. Which brings me to our recipes.
There are always heels and left-over ends of a loaf which need to be used, as I cannot bear throwing them away. So having decided on dumplings with breadcrumbs, the next thing was the sauce, all important in dumpling cuisine. What called out to me, from the same section on Thuringia, was a Gulasch mit Pilzen, which boils down to (yes, ha ha) beef braised with mushrooms in lager. Perfect since we had just picked up a new (for me) variety of locally grown mushrooms called Pioppini, as well as some stewing beef. I had a nice Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and thus was delicious history made.
Gulasch mit Pilzen or Braised Beef with Mushroomsfrom Culinaria Germany
1 3/4 lb./750 g stewing beef, cut into strips
2 tablespoons clarified butter
14 oz/400 g onion, roughly diced
2 tbsp tomato paste (I didn't have any, so used ketchup)
1 cup/250 ml lager
1 tbsp medium hot chili powder
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon thyme
7 oz/200 g mixed wild mushrooms
bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
scant 1/2 cup/100 g creme fraiche (I used kefir cream cheese)
pinch of sugar
Sear the stewing beef quickly in the hot clarified butter. Add the diced onions and saute until translucent. Stir in the tomato paste and cook briefly, then deglaze with the beer and season with chili powder, salt, pepper and thyme. Cover and braise on medium heat for 1 hour, or until the meat is tender. (Mine went for closer to 2 hours). Wipe and slice the mushrooms (mine were small so I left them whole).
When the meat is cooked, stir in the mushrooms and parsley, and simmer for another 10 minutes. Fold in the creme, and season to taste with salt, pepper and sugar. Serve with boiled potatoes or these dumplings.
While the meat is cooking, and toward the end, mix up your dumplings.
Bread Dumplings with Rosemary
2 heaped tablespoons kefir cream cheese (you could use sour cream)
1 cup breadcrumbs
2 heaped tablespoons Parmesan cheese
1 heaping teaspoon rosemary, minced
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
salt and pepper
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, in a medium sized bowl beat the egg and kefir cream cheese or sour cream together. Pulverize the bread into crumbs, then mix in the rosemary and remaining dry ingredients until well combined. Add in the egg mixture and form into evensized dumplings.
Turn the water down to a simmer and drop the dumplings in gently. Cover and leave to simmer for about 20 minutes or until cooked through. They should not boil. Lift out with a perforated spoon and set on paper towels to drain before serving.
Note: These were just wonderful, tender, light and moist, a perfect foil to the hearty, richly flavored beef braising sauce. I cannot wait to make more dumplings. And, this braise as well was so good. You might want to serve it with a bit of salad, but being on the lazy side, I just sliced some fresh tomato. And the rest of that lovely lager went well, of course. Thanks Culinaria for all the inspiration. I'm sharing the goodness with Cookbook Sundays, hosted by Sue of Couscous & Consciousness, in the interest of everyone's getting out their cookbooks and dusting them off.