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.

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Vegetarian Reuben

from Jamey W. Bennett
to Daniel Larkin

Dude,
Did you once tell me that you make a vegetarian reuben?
Jamey

from Daniel Larkin
to me 

Funny enough, I cut tofu this morning and started marinating it for ruebens tonight. Jenny’s parents are coming over for it!

I use my homemade kraut, so it’s basically the shit.  Plus, the marinade mimics slow smoked, salty beef fairly well.  It’s obviously a different flavor from a standard cornedbeef reuben, but I like the tofu just as much as any cornedbeef rueben I’ve ever had.

The process is pretty simple.  I cut the tofu into thin slices, maybe about 1/4-inch thick, and marinate it in my special sauce (ewww) for at least 4 hours.  My sauce is **roughly** a mix of 2 parts soy sauce, 1 part worcestershire sauce, and a few slashes of liquid hickory smoke.  Then I dilute that all with water until I’m comfortable that it’s flavorful, but not overly salty.

When it’s done marinating, I cook the tofu in safflower oil on high heat until it’s brown on both sides.  I’ve found that this gives the best texture.  High heat and safflower oil.

Then I just stack it on some grilled pumpernickel bread with a heaping pile of warm sauerkraut, swiss cheese and thousand island dressing (you’ll probably do Russian dressing).

Yum.  I’m glad I was already planning on having these tonight, otherwise I would be scrambling to make it happen after writing this.

from: Jamey W. Bennett
to Daniel Larkin

That sounds great! I’ve been craving a Reuben, and we’re in the countdown to Orthodox Lent, so we just waved a 56 day goodbye to meat on Sunday. On top of that, I have a big bag of kraut in the fridge…I may hit up Whole Foods for some tofu in a bit.

Thanks!

[Update: Turns out we already posted about this in October. We’re idiots!]

Tofu Reuben

from Daniel Larkin
to jamey bennett
show details 10:16 AM (1 minute ago)

I’m not going to lie to you, Jamey, last night I made the best tofu reuben I’ve ever eaten.  This normally wouldn’t sound like a big deal except that an all vegetarian restaurant in Knoxville named Veg-O-Rama used to make a tofureuben that would knock my socks off – that is until they closed shop.  Anyway, I think I beat theirreuben!

Another reason this is big news is that after living with a vegetarian for 7 years, I think I finally figured out how to make good tofu.  I’m sure you’ve cooked enough tofu to know that it’s a blank slate of a food item texturally and flavor-wise, and it requires some seemingly magical skill to make progress on either front.

Marinating is obviously necessary, but there’s always the problem of sloppy loose texture – even when you use “extra firm” curd.  There is one brand of local organic tofu we buy sometimes that’s thick as a steak, but what’s good for the texture is bad for flavor, since the denseness impedes rapid marination.  (And who wants to marinate tofu all day?)

So here’s what I learned.

First, I bought the generic organic tofu – extra firm, but still squishy in regards to the final product.  I cut the tofu into about 1/4 inch slices and pressed them with paper towels to dry them out as much as possible.  (Nothing new here, this is standard prep work for tofu)  Then I laid them flat in a large ziplock baggie and filled it with a rough 1:1 mix of water and soy sauce with a splash of worchestire sauce and liquid hickory smoke.  I set that in the fridge and let it go for a few hours while I worked.

Now, the biggest thing I did differently than any other time was that I cooked the tofu slices for about 10 minutes on very high heat with a small amount of safflower oil.  I’ve never used “high heat” oil for tofu before, and so I’ve never been able to utilize the temperatures needed to toughen and crisp the slices.  It was beautiful!  Golden brown slices that didn’t just dissolve in my mouth.  There’s no faking corned beef, but this was damn good.

I placed a few stacks of the tofu slices on some pumpernickel bread smeared with Harvest Ground mustard and Thousand Island Dressing, and topped it all with a good swiss cheese and my homemade sauerkraut (left over from Oktoberfest).  I broiled the sandwich in the toaster, and viola!

In all honesty, I think the sauerkraut made the sandwich what it was, but the marinated tofu cooked to perfection was what I’ve been missing all these years.  It was fantastic, and I’d even wager that my father would like it.

Sauerkraut at Home

from Jamey W. Bennett
to Daniel Larkin

Dude,
So my sauerkraut was a hit at my wedding this past weekend, even among the non-kraut-enthusiasts. I used a combination of my priest’s “50 lbs. every autumn” recipe with some techniques I found online. Basically, I used an empty sanitized brew bucket, a growler filled with water (for weight), a small plate, a knife, a kitchen scale, a rolling pin (to smash the cabbage), about 20 lbs. of cabbage, and lots of salt.

Simply put: I’d slice the cabbage (getting rid of the core) into pretty thin strips. Using my kitchen scale, I’d slice and slice until I had 3-1/2 lbs. I’d throw that into the bucket with 1 tbs. non-iodized salt. I kept this up until I chopped it all up. Every now and then, I’d stir the mix and smash it together. My arms were pretty tired by the end. I had some serious juice-age in the bucket, too.

I put the plate on top of the cabbage and pushed down until all of the cabbage was submerged in the brine, and I set the growler on top of the plate to hold it down. I dropped the bucket off in my basement and covered it with a towel. I checked it every day for a little over two weeks, and skimmed any film off the top that developed. Next time I do it, I’m going to give it another week.

The caterer cooked it, and served it up with pieces of kielbasa. It was awesome.

How’d you do your kraut? I saw you linked this about it, but I was wondering how closely you followed it.

jamey

from Daniel Larkin
to Jamey W. Bennett

I followed that recipe to a T, and it turned out amazing!  I undershot my cabbage weight a little, though, so my spices were a bit more than they were supposed to be.  But that was fine, since the caraway seed, mustard seed, and juniper are all spices that go well with kraut-esque food anyway.

The only thing I’ll do differently is that when I periodically top off the cans to replenish evaporated water, I won’t used salt water.  I realized that the water may be evaporating, but the salt was being left behind, so I was really just salting the hell out of an already salty foodstuff.

But again, the recipe was bangin!  I have to make a bunch this week for our Oktoberfest party in a few weeks.

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!