Gourmet Hot-Pockets; or German Pretzel Calzones

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From: Daniel Larkin
To: Jamey Bennett

I know you’re not a bread man, but I also know you’ve agreed to eat my sourdough the next time you’re in my kitchen. So maybe you can find someway to make this happen in your house in the meantime.

Have you ever made pretzels? I hadn’t, but seeing as how this is the first Oktoberfest since I’ve really (half) mastered the art of the dough, I thought I would give it a shot. I wanted to make pretzels, but I also wanted to do something a little more exciting, so I came up with the idea of stuffed pretzels. And what better German foods to stuff into pretzel dough than pork and cabbage? I’m sure I’m not the first person to do something this, but this recipe was 100% Daniel.

Since reading The Butcher’s Guide to Well Raised Meat, I’ve been obsessed with pork, and not just pork, but overlooked cuts of the pig. And at the Three Rivers Co-op in Knoxville, there’s usually a few packages of local country-style pork ribs from Jem Farm. Country pork ribs are a cheap, fatty cut that more resembles tiny, super fatty ribeye steaks than the traditional image of pork ribs. Cheap + fatty = YES!

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My idea was simple; roast some pork and cabbage, stuff it into pretzel dough, cook it on my stone. The only adaptation I had to add was to boil the pocketed mess before baking. (Boiling is apparently the key to good pretzels and bagels.)

So here we go:

Filling:
About a pound of country style pork ribs.
Onion (I used 4 chipolline onions – think a hybrid yellow onion and shallot)
About 1/4 head cabbage
2 tbs Dijon mustard. I use Lusty Monk Original Sin
6 Juniper berries dried
1 tsp caraway seeds
Broth (I used homemade chiclet broth)
High heat oil
Salt and pepper to taste

This is easy peasy. It’ll save dishes if you use an all metal pan, which you can use on the stove and in the oven.

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1) Preheat oven to 225º.

2) Salt and pepper room temperature ribs, and sear on high heat for 30 seconds each side, or until brown. Remove from pan.

3) Sautee the onions in the remaining fat and oil until clear.

4) Deglaze the pan with a few tablespoons of broth, and add the cabbage to the onion mix. Add enough extra broth to simmer, but no smother, the cabbage. Simmer for 5 minutes.

5) Stack the pork ribs in the pan, placing some of the cabbage and onion mix above the ribs and some below it. Cover tightly with tin foil and place it in the oven for at least three hours.

6) When done, set aside to cool, preferably in the fridge, where the fat will congeal. When it’s cool, find and remove the juniper berries.

Dough:

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1) Preheat oven to 450º, with a pizza stone if you have one.

2) Look up a pretzel recipe, and do that. (I used my regular sourdough pizza dough recipe, and it worked great.)

3) Instead of rolling your dough into neat little tubes and making pretzels, roll it into an even number of flat square (or circles, just make sure they’re roughly the same size). Given this recipe, you can expect to make 4 good sized pockets, which means you’ll need 8 dough plates.

4) Stack your meat into the center of the dough, and over with a matching piece of dough.

5) Brush the edges with egg wash (Egg wash wlll be in your pretzel recipe, I guarantee it.) and place a second piece of dough on top. Press the edges together with a fork. (You can see from my pictures that I went with the single-piece/fold method, but that created a few thick dough pockets that would be avoided by using the ravioli method.)

6) Boiling will also be in your pretzel recipe, along with a recommended ration of water to baking soda. I recommend not skipping this step, since it really gives the chewy consistency you want. Sooooo…..boil your hot pocket for 30 seconds, flipping it once in the middle.

7) Remove the pocket from the water, let it sit for a minute to cool, and then brush it with egg wash and sprinkle it with kosher salt.

8) Bake it until the crust is a deep, even brown.

9) Let that shit cool for a while! Maybe drink an Ayinger Oktoberfest will you wait.

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Dude, this is pure American indulgence, but the flavor is strictly German. The pork mix is good enough to just eat by itself, but when it’s wrapped in a brown, chewy pretzel, it just makes you want to listen to oomph music and get hammered. I served it with a heaping scoop of Lusty Monk mustard on the side, which just fueled the need for more beer. It was a heavenly cycle of burn and belly bomb.

As you can see, I also made some straight-up pretzels for Jenny. Her reaction was, and this is an exact quote; “What the hell, Daniel?! You can make pretzels?”