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?”

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World Peace Currywurst Tacos

from: Jamey Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin

Dude,

I think I may have just done more for world peace than any U.N. peace treaty ever could. I made a currywurst taco.

I don’t remember where I first heard about currywurst, but it’s important to note that I’ve never actually had currywurst until today. Even when I was in Germany, I had plenty of sausages, but never had currywurst. I guess that’s a sort of disclaimer, since I have nothing to compare it to. But if authentic German currywurst tastes like what I whipped up, I can see why it’s popular.

The legend of currywurst is that a simple woman in post-WW2 Berlin traded some booze with British soldiers for ketchup, curry, and Worstchestershire sauce. She threw them together in her kitchen with a few other spices, poured it over sausage and the rest is history. Now the stuff is everywhere over there.

Still, there’s plenty about the dish online, and I found this Wall Street Journal article quite enlightening. After scouring various articles and recipes online, it’s clear that few people agree on how to make the sauce that makes currywurst so delectable, and there appears to be some difference of opinion on what one should serve with currywurst.

Well, in adapting this for a taco, essentially I did this. For each taco: one Hofbrau beer brat from Trader Joe’s, served on a medium wheat tortilla, topped with a curried tomato sauce, and sauerkraut. It was amazing.

First the sauce. There are many simple recipes online that amount to essentially currying ketchup. I wanted something a little more refined than that, and I really didn’t want anything as sweet as ketchup. So here’s what I came up with. I found this recipe and made several twists and omissions, all changes I think were important.

I sauteed about 2/3 cup of chopped onions and 1 clove of minced garlic in oil for a few minutes, then I added a small amount of water and stirred to kinda clean up the pan. I turned the heat off, and added: 10 cherry tomatoes (sliced in half), 1/4 cup vinegar, 6 ounce can of tomato paste, 2 tbs. honey, 1/4 tsp of ground allspice, 5 tbs. curry powder (yeah, I said FIVE freaking tablespoons), 1 tsp. ginger powder, 1 tsp. cayenne pepper, 1 bay leaf, and a little salt and pepper.

I turned the heat back on, and simmered, adding quite a bit of water, probably about 1-1/2 cups, but I only did it a quarter cup at a time. Over the course of 25 minutes or so of simmering and occasionally stirring, a lot of water dissipated. In the end, the consistency I wanted with a chunky, slightly thick ketchup. And damn, it was tasty.

Meanwhile, I browned the small wheat tortillas in a separate skillet, doesn’t take long, and set them aside. I threw the brats in the skillet, and ended up breaking them down by chopping with a knife and separating them with the spatula until it had the consistency of ground meat.

Once everything was cooked thoroughly, I removed the bay leaf, spooned the sausage onto the tortilla, topped with a generous helping of sauce, and sauerkraut. I served with a big glass of water, but a large mug of German beer would have been even better.

As far as quantities…I used about a full brat on each tortilla, though the Trader Joe’s brats are relatively small, and I think the amount of sauce would work well for 4-6 tacos of this size.

Who woulda thunk? India, Great Britain, Germany, and Mexico, united in one damn fine dish.

from Daniel Larkin
to jamey w. bennett

That looks thoroughly delicious.  And that’s something I could easily do camping – freeze and vacuum seal the brats ahead of time, and then dehydrate the sauce.  Either way, home or in the woods, this is happening.

from: Jamey Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin

It’s super good. I just had some leftovers, and it was great. I took the sausage out of the casing this time, and it was much easier to break apart (duh). Full disclosure: I actually wanted to slice the brats to give it a more traditional (German) appearance, but my cuts were ugly, so I decided to go with the ground meat look! I think that actually was better, especially because it created pockets in the taco for the sauce to fill, likely making it less messy.

These things are pretty juicy, between the sauce and the kraut. Take some big paper towels for a cleaner experience.