2 years ago Jodie and I spent a month backpacking through Europe. We timed it so that we would be in Munich at the end of September for the ironically named Oktoberfest. (While the original festival that started Oktoberfest took place over 3 weeks of horse races in October as a celebration of some noble wedding or another, the Munich people decided it was so much fun that they should do it every year! But, they decided, “Well, why not move it forward a couple weeks for better weather. Oh, and all that horse racing? We don’t really need that…just the beer tents.)
Oktoberfest will always be one of the most memorable experiences of my life. It’s remarkable, if you think about it, as I drank 3 ½ beers (1 liter each) that night and shouldn’t really remember anything at all as…well let’s say “tipsy”…as I was.
But I do. I remember riding the tallest carnival swing ride of my life with great views of Munich;
I remember the horse drawn wagon of beer being delivered to the numerous beer gardens, I remember the enormous beer “tents” that were larger than most capitol buildings and more grandly decorated; I remember the Oompah bands in the center stage of each of these tents; I remember one of these traditional German bands break into a rendition of “Seven Nation Army” by the White Stripes; I remember standing on the long tables with my arms around my friends as well as a few locals we had just met, belting the lyrics to said song; I remember waitresses who could carry eight or more liter-sized steins of beer without spilling a drop! But mostly, I remember the food. Oh, the food.
There were amazingly herbed rotisserie chickens, giant pretzels the size of your head, obazda (a dip of brie, butter, and beer,) schticklefish (a deep fried mackerel,) wursts of all kinds, schnitzel, spaetzel, streudel, and bread pudding! It was a good thing we met up with friends so we were able to share so many of these German delicacies.
Now, I can’t make Oktoberfest every year (or even every decade,) but I can bring a bit of Oktoberfest to me with some Schnitzel with Spaetzle and Bread Pudding for Dessert. (With a side of sauerkraut.)
Pork tenderloin is very cheap and you need one for to serve 4. While spaetzle may look like noodles, it’s just a conglomeration of flour eggs and milk, basically a long tubular dumpling. And my wife’s bread pudding recipe is best with stale leftover bread. I can’t claim these recipes are easy, but if you are up for an adventure, they are very cheap and delicious.
Also, German beer is very affordable. I recommend Spaten Optimator or Ayinger Dunkelweiss (a dark roasted hefeweizen, with bannana bread flavors.) If your a wine drinker, grab a good riesling to pair with the meal, I love Charm by George Bruer.
The most important part of traditional schnitzel is how you fry it. You want to get your schnitzel to have the wavy skin of a shar-pei dog. There’s a trick to it. Don’t worrry, I’ll show you.
1 pork tenderloin
flour for dredging
1 cup very dry breadcrumbs (If using fresh breadcrumbs, you may need to dry them out in a low oven for a while)
1 cup vegetable or olive oil plus 2 Tablespoons
salt and pepper
- Cut the pork loin in half at an angle. Then repeat that process with the two halves of the pork tenderloin, creating four pork cutlets. Using a mallet, pound the cutlets to ¼ inch thick underneath a layer of saran wrap. Season the cutlets with salt and pepper.
- Make the egg wash by cracking 2 eggs into a shallow bowl and mixing in 2 Tablespoons of oil. (This is unusual, but seems to help the breadcrumbs to lightly coat the pork.) Dredge the pork in flour, dip in the egg wash, and then dip into the breadcrumbs. It is important push the pork gently into the breadcrumbs, but not to apply too much pressure. (Again important for the fluffy breading.)
- Heat the oil in the bottom of a large dutch oven (not a pan.) Make sure you use enough oil. There should be enough room for the cutlets to lightly float from the bottom of the pot without getting stuck to the bottom, but not be submerged. Contrary to common sense, this will actually help the schnitzel be less greasy as the contact to the bottom of the pan is where meat absorbs the most oil. Also, it is essential to getting the perfect skin on the schnitzel.
- Now here is the tricky part: Once the oil is hot and the surface is shimmering, add 2 of the breaded pork cutlets. Immediately begin to lightly shake the dutch oven back and forth, splashing the oil up over the top of the cutlets. (See why you don’t want to use a pan? You would get hot oil all over your self. The splashing needs to substantial.)
- Once the cutlets are golden brown, turn them once gently and repeat the process for the other side, but for only half the time. The cutlets should be mostly cooked through by the time you have flipped them.
- Remove the cutlets and to a paper towel for draining and serve after 2 or 3 minutes.
This is a basic spaetzle recipe. Feel free to add herbs and spices to this for your own unique spaetzle. Anything goes. Almost. Oh, and there is a trick to this too, unless you have a spaetzle maker. If you do, you are probably German and don’t need this recipe anyway.
For the Dough:
1 cup flour
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
pinch of pepper
1 teaspoon nutmeg
For the Saute
2 Tablespoons butter
Fresh or dried herbs of choice (I used dried parsley for my first try)
- Mix all the ingredients together for the dough until it is smooth. Let sit 10 minutes.
- Boil water in a large saucepan. The trick is to take a large-holed colander and push the dough through it to create the long thin noodle-like dumplings. (I’ll be honest, I was only half successful on my first attempt. But it was fun!) Boil for five minute or until Spaetzle is floating at the top of the water.
- Meanwhile melt butter and herbs together in a small pan. Using a slotted spoon, scoop the finished spaetzle out of the boiling water and into the pan. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes or until covered in butter and herbs. Serve Immediately.
Stale dense bread such as leftover bagels or beer bread works best but any bread will do. This is my go to dessert when I have a bunch of leftover bagels that are too stale to eat, the best are cinnamon raison bagels.
4-5 stale bagels or 6-7 slices of regular bread
4 cups milk
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons of cinnamon
1 stick butter
- Spray or butter up a 9×13 inch pan and pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. (Every thing for the bread pudding can be put together an refrigerated up to 12 hours before baking)
- Tear up bread in large pieces and place in greased baking dish. (you may need a knife if the bread is particularly stale)
- In a bowl, combine egg, milk, sugar, vanilla, and 1 tablespoon of cinnamon. Mix until eggs are beat and sugar has dissolved.
- Pour liquid mixture over bread pieces. If the bread is quite stale let the mixture sit for an hour or so to soften up the bread.
- Just before baking sprinkle 1 tablespoon (or more if you’d like) on the top of the soaked bread and cut the stick of butter into several pats, place the pats of butter all over the top.
- Bake for 1 hour.
- It should be huge and puffy when removed from oven. It will shrink immediately out of the oven. Let stand for 20 minutes.
- Cut, drizzle with butter rum sauce (recipe to follow) and serve.
Butter Rum Sauce
1 stick butter
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon rum
1/4 cup milk
- Melt butter in a small sauce pan.
- Add powdered sugar and rum, stir quickly with a whisk.
- When the sauce becomes thick add milk and stir some more.
- Let cook for 5 minutes, remove from heat and let sit before serving.