Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Oktoberfest Pork and Spaetzle

The Setting: A crisp October day.
The Soundtrack: Washing machine and dryer...endless loads today.

Steaming up the Oven: Nothing yet, but there's a chicken in my fridge just begging to be roasted.

The Scenario: A celebration of the season. Good beer and great food.

For the two years that Hoosband and I lived in South Florida, we were beyond blessed with a bounty of diverse dining options.

As you might imagine, we frequently enjoyed an abundance of Latin and Caribbean cuisines.

But one of the things we most looked forward to at least once a week was happy hour at Old Heidelberg, the local German establishment.

The main dining room was the place for outstanding feasts of sausages, schnitzels, and suckling pig any day of the week.

But on weekdays from four to seven, the bar was the place to be.

Here, drink orders were delivered with a small, white saucer and free access to two giant chaffing dishes of simple, comforting goodness.

One dish was a starch, the other some form of meat--generally saucy, occasionally unidentifiable, always delicious.

It wasn't exactly haute cuisine, but it certainly had us coming back for more.

This time of year, when the supermarket beer aisles boast mountainous displays of seasonal Oktoberfest brews, I can't help trying to re-create a little Heidelberg happy hour here at home.

And now you can, too.

Oktoberfest Pork and Spaetzle
In an attempt to make the meal a smidge more wholesome, I like to add a little whole-wheat flour to the spaetzle. If you prefer a whiter spaetzle, feel free to substitute more white flour for the whole wheat.

~for the pork~
2 large onions, thinly sliced
2-3 lbs pork shoulder roast
2 cups crumbled gingersnaps (1/2-inch-sized crumbles)
2 T kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
2 T paprika
1/2 tsp celery seed
1 bay leaf*
2 whole allspice berries, optional*
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 T Dijon mustard
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 (12-oz) Oktoberfest-style beer (I used Sam Adams Oktoberfest)

Place the onions in a slow cooker and top with the pork and remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 12 hours or until pork is fall-apart tender when prodded with a fork.

This pork keeps, stored in an airtight container in the fridge, for up to one week and is even better a day or two after it's made. Simply reheat leftovers in the microwave.

*Remove before serving. Also watch out for bones or bone fragments if using a bone-in cut of meat.

~for the spaetzle~
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp fine-grain sea salt
2 large eggs
1/3 cup milk
1-2 T butter
2 T finely chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, eggs, and milk. Cover and set aside while you bring a large pot of water, plus 1 T salt and 1 T oil, to a boil.

Lightly coat a large platter or rimmed baking sheet with oil. Have a metal colander, a rubber spatula, and a heatproof spider or large slotted spoon handy.

Once the water is boiling, hold the colander over the boiling water and carefully pour 1/4 of the batter into the colander. With a rapid, stirring motion, use the spatula to push the batter through the holes of the colander and into the boiling water. Watch out for any rogue batter trying to escape from holes not positioned over the water--it happens. Use the spatula to carefully scrape excess batter clinging to the outside of the colander into the boiling water. The spaetzle cook almost immediately and float to the top when they are done. Set down the colander and use the spider or large slotted spoon to transfer the cooked spaetzle to the oiled baking sheet. Gently shake the sheet to keep the spaetzle from clumping together.

Note: if any raw batter gets caught on top of the cooked spaetzle at the top of the pot, simply use the spatula to poke it down into the water so it has a chance to cook through.

Repeat process with remaining batter.

At this point the spaetzle can either be cooled to room temperature, transferred to a lightly oiled, airtight container, and refrigerated for up to 4 days, or prepared as follows:

Melt the butter in a large saute pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the spaetzle, and cook 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in half the parsley and season lightly with salt and pepper if desired.

Top bowls of spaetzle with the pork and its juices, garnish with remaining parsley, and serve with a frosty glass of your favorite Oktoberfest brew.

Thanks for reading! Here's to Being the Secret Ingredient in your life.

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