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?”

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.

Philosophy of Sausage Making

from Daniel Larkin
to jamey w. bennett

I’m so far behind in my TwoDudes emails that I don’t even know where to begin.  Luckily for you, I made sausage the other weekend, so this seems like as good a place as any to pick up the ball.

I don’t know if you’ve ever made sausage, but I hadn’t, and I assumed it was going to be ridiculously difficult.  I had always thought a fun and easy way to do it would be to buy some ground meat, mix in some spices, and make “sausage” patties.  Well, when an old cast-metal, hand-crank meat grinder showed up at our neighborhood yard sale, I knew that plan was shit.  It was time to go all in.

None of us really knew what spices make “sausage.”  We knew that sage makes good breakfast sausage and that you can’t make Italian sausage without fennel, but that’s where our recipe knowledge stopped.  We each did a small amount of research online, but in the end, we decided to just avoid a recipe and just make it up as we went.  This approach, along with morning beers, led to a very distinct lack of note taking.

The spices consisted of a small amount of dry spices along with a handful of fresh herbs from my garden.  Here’s how we collected our meat:  I went suburban and bought a 3-1/2 pound bone-in pork shoulder at the grocery store.  (I looked for the best/most marbling I could see.)  Brandon had a trip coming up to see his family in the country, during which he bagged a rabbit with a .22 rifle.  John went to Lay’s meat market in the backstreets of Knoxville (aren’t the best meat stores always in a crappy building in the PJs?) and bought a 5 pound bag of “pork fat.”

We started out with around 10 pounds of flesh, bone and skin, but after we cleaned the rabbit, carved the bone out of the shoulder, and pulled the skin off the pork fat, we were down to about 7 or 8 pounds.  (In case you’re wondering, yes, we cooked the skin in a cast iron pan to render the remaining fat and make cracklins.)  As we were cleaning our respective meats, we chopped them into small pieces — around 1/2 to 1 inch cubed.  Into this, we mixed our haphazard assortments of herbs and seasonings.

The final mix went something like this. 

  • Meat and fat mix
  • Two tall stalks of rosemary
  • Two tall sprigs of oregano
  • Six sage leaves
  • A handful of thyme sprigs
  • Whole bundle of garlic, roasted
  • Powdered coriander (Maybe 2 tbs?)
  • A good coating of Kosher salt
  • Plenty of red pepper flakes
  • Lots of cayenne pepper
  • Black and white pepper
  • 6-8 ounces of Muprhy’s Irish Stout

We chopped the fresh herbs, sprinkled the dry herbs, poured in the beer, and mixed it all into the cubed meat.  Then we put the mix into the fridge while we drank more beer.  You want the fat to be cold, so that it chops easier.

Once everything was chilled, we ran it through the meat grinder on the coarsest setting.  We proceeded to case half the mix in hog intestines, but we were so unprepared for that process, and it was such a disaster that I don’t feel qualified to give any tips.  Well, maybe one tip — buy a sausage stuffer!  Faced with the prospect of stuffing more intestines, we decided to leave the other half as a loose mix which we split evenly between us.

We sampled the sausage in patty form just after grinding, and again as links at the end of the day.  Both times were fantastic, but we noticed that the heat of the peppers drastically declined the longer the sausage sat.  The most surprising thing was how sausage-like the flavor was!  It was incredible!  I’ve got about 8 ounces of loose mix in my freezer now that I’m going to use for spicy cheese dip for the CochFord Chicken Fry.

I realize that I was kinda weak on the details here, so what I’m about to give you is a brief Philosophy of Sausage Making — a term that I actually Googled beforehand, but sadly discovered does not exist.  If you ever find yourself with a meat grinder and a day to spend elbow deep in pork fat and beer, just follow these instructions.

  • Pour yourself a beer, because you’re on your way to Awesometown.
  • Whatever animal/animals you choose, make sure you have a good fat-to-meat ratio — good being at least 30% fat.
  • Remove everything Kosher before you start — because it’s about to look like a pig exploded in your kitchen.
  • Make sure the mix is chilled before grinding.
  • Add a little liquid to help the texture through the grinder.  Beer is a good option.
  • Make a small patty to sample your recipe after grinding.  Then you can make minor adjustments.
  • It doesn’t matter what spices you use, just as long as you use a ton of them.  Sausage is supposed to be flavorful, dammit!
  • If you want spicy sausage, use a lot of peppers.

There you go, dude.  Daniel’s Philosophy of Sausage Making.

North Carolina Barbecue Sauce & Tacos

from: Jamey Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin

Hey Dude,

Since North Carolina is basically your next door neighbor, I doubt I have to be the one to tell you that North Carolina barbecue rocks.

1. I love vinegar.
2. I love spicy food.
3. I love to eat pigs.

On a side note, I think it’s funny that the word “barbecue” to a North Carolinian means pulled (or chopped) pork and a spicy vinegar sauce. My homeboy Brotha SouL gave me a blank look when I talked about barbecue chicken, or barbecue ribs. To him, Barbecue is a noun meaning only pulled pork. I guess they call the other stuff “grilled” or something? I don’t know.

Anyway, I have only recently begun to enjoy the wonders of NC barbecue. My first exposure was when I made a sauce recipe from Amazing Ribs. I could practically drink the stuff. But the first time I tasted actual, authentic barbecue in NC was last summer. My life was changed.

Some time ago, my friend Steve Robinson posted an update on Facebook that he made an East Carolina sauce. I generally trust his palate (except for his McDonald’s habit!), so I asked him for his recipe. In fact, I’m pretty sure I texted you a screen shot of his “seat of the pants…ballpark” sauce recipe. Here goes:

  • 2/3 Cider Vinegar
  • 1/3 White vinegar
  • A couple Tbsp. brownsugar
  • Some salt
  • A good tsp. of cayenne pepper
  • Crushed red peppers (he used a 12-pepper mix from his sister, I used crushed and fermented red peppers that I made)
  • Some coarse black pepper
  • A couple tablespoons of red wine vinegar
  • A couple tablespoons of ketchup

I like mine with a lot of black pepper…it just smells and tastes awesome, especially with the vinegar. Anyway, I made two 16 oz. Mason jars a couple of months ago. Wonderful stuff. Oh, and it’s best if left overnight for the flavors to blend. And shake it up whenever you think of it.

Now, the tacos. The tacos are easy. Get some pork. Doesn’t really matter what kind, or how much. I put three pork chops in my crock pot, and poured the sauce over them. Cooked it on low all day. About 6 or 7 hours in, I pulled the pork out, shredded it with a couple forks, and then put it back in the crock pot.

When I was almost ready to eat, I made a simply pico de gallo with diced tomato, red onion, fresh jalapeno, cilantro, salt and pepper. I poured some of the barbecue sauce over it and let it sit for about 10 minutes to soak up the flavor. Meanwhile, I warmed some flour tortillas in my cast iron skillet.

Once done with all of that, I removed the meat with a ladle with holes. After removing the meat, I further drained the pulled pork. (The reason for this is that you don’t want soggy tortillas!)

Anyway, I put the pork on the tortillas, threw on the pico, and a little bit of lettuce. Then I spooned a VERY small amount of more vinegar sauce on the top. It was AMAZING.

Next time, I’m going to try slaw instead of lettuce. But I don’t think I’ll change a thing about the meat or the sauce. And I’ll probably keep the pico.

jamey

from: Daniel Larkin
to: ”Jamey W. Bennett” 

I LOVE North Carolina BBQ.  I used to cook at a dive bar in Charlotte called The Penguin.  The place had three owners — a cook, a business man, and a maintenance guy — all with full sleeves of tattoos.

Anyway, the cook-owner got his start making BBQ, and he would still do all of our meats offsite with his secret recipe.  I also worked with an awesome Mexican dude named Manuel (Real name? Probably not.) and he’s the one who showed me how to make salsa.  Manuel would also bring his own corn tortillas into work, and we would deep fry them to make taco shells.  You already know what we filled them with!

Long story short, this is gonna fill a gap that was left in my belly after I quit The Penguin.

German Pork Ribs!

from Daniel Larkin
to Jamey Bennett

I’m sure I’ve told you about the Octoberfest party Jenny and I are planning for this Fall.  We’ll have two 5-gallon kegs – the Octoberfest, which I entered into the TN Valley Competition (it took silver!), and the Bohemian Pilsner.  We’ll also be grilling all day. This is actually what inspired my recent crack at making sauerkraut (results still unknown).

Anyway, I’ve never used kraut for anything other than dousing a sausage, and I figured if I’m going to be making it I should find other ways to eat it.  I don’t think I can eat enough hot dogs to make it through two liters of sauerkraut.

So here’s what I did as a test.  This was just an amalgamation of other recipes and ingredients I found online.

I bought a 24 oz can of GOOD German sauerkraut and 2 pounds of country style pork ribs.  These aren’t the rack ribs you think of when someone says ribs.  They’re much larger and come sliced individually.

I salted the ribs and browned them in olive oil in a heavy duty pot.  Set ‘em aside.Tossed in a whole onion sliced and two green apples sliced and sauteed them in the oil and pork remnants.

Once the onions were translucent, I added all of the kraut (strained and drained) I also stirred in some caraway seed, a few Juniper berries and a heaping scoop of Grey Poupon Harvest Ground Mustard.

I sauteed this mix for another minute then removed half of it.  I set the ribs on top of the mixture and covered it with the remaining half of the kraut, apple and onion mix. Then I just dumped a full 12 oz bottle of Octoberfest beer, covered it with foil and the lid and baked it for 5 hours on 275º.  In all, prep time was almost nil.  It was less than 20 minutes between opening the ribs and closing the oven door behind them.

I didn’t take any pictures because it ain’t a pretty meal to look at, but the pork melts in your mouth and the kraut/onion/apple mix is ridiculous.  I served it all with mashed red potatoes with butter, cream, rosemary and thyme. I’m thinking this is what I might make for the Octoberfest party.

TwoDudes exclusive update.  Put the leftovers spread on a hoagie roll with a generous slathering of course mustard, and you’ll be in pig heaven!