Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sauerbraten (Page 421)


  • Date: Sunday, December 7, 2008 -- 10pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-

Sauerbraten is a food that I have long been scared of (more on that below) so I put off making this recipe. But the other day I ran across this recipe in The Book, read it, and decided I should give sauerbraten another try. So I gave myself a little pep talk that went something like this, "Teena, sauerbraten is braised beef. You love braised beef. So get over it and make the recipe!" And I did and I was greatly rewarded. This dish was awesome. I started by marinating 3 and a half pounds of beef chuck roast for 3 days in a mixture of red wine, water, red wine vinegar, carrot, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, thyme, salt, and onions. After 3 days I removed the beef from the marinade, browned it, then braised it atop some cooked onions, in the strained marinade, for almost 3 hours. After it was falling apart tender, I made a sauce with the strained braising liquid, red wine vinegar, sugar, and raisins, thickened with a roux of butter and flour, and some gingersnap cookies! Yum! The beef was perfectly braised, and it had a wonderful flavor through and through -- the days of marinating were certainly effective. The sauce was tasty with lots of depth of flavor to it. I wasn't totally sold on the raisins in it, but other than that it was lovely. I am a huge fan of thickening sauces with gingersnaps (my gravy recipe standby for Thanksgiving is a gingersnap gravy!), and the cookies in this recipe added a nice flavor to the sauce. Overall this was a fantastic way to turn some cheap beef into something truly delicious!

This recipe isn't online.

So why the fear of sauerbraten? Well, when I was young (around 10 years old) I spent a few weeks at a German language immersion camp for a couple summers in a row. Yes, at the time I spoke German. No, I do not any more. It was a cool idea though. It was like a typical summer camp: swimming, canoeing, campfires, etc..., except that the counselors and other adults would only speak to you in German, and the kids were supposed to speak to each other only in German too (which they did -- more or less). We also had language class a couple hours a day to improve our skills. It is so much easier to pick up a language at that age than it is as an adult, so even without much background you could get by pretty well after a week or so. [Side Note: I was working out in the gym at Stanford one day when I was an undergraduate, and Chelsea Clinton came up to me and said, "You went there to?" I was wearing a t-shirt from this immersion camp, and apparently she and I had been there the same summer. Small world!] Anyway, the whole place was German themed. We sang German songs. We read German books. And, of course, we ate German food. I am a pretty flexible eater, but I was pickier in those days. And my parents raised me with the rule that I could eat (or not eat) whatever I wanted. We didn't have any of this Clean Plate Club nonsense in our house, and we weren't required to eat things we didn't like. Not so at German camp. The rule enforced there was that you had to try everything. For me, now, that sounds like a fun rule, but for a 10-year-old version of me, it was bad. I didn't like being forced to eat things that didn't taste good. And although the food there was pretty decent, a lot of it just didn't appeal to me. For instance: sauerbraten. I ate it. But it has since been ingrained in my mind as one of the few foods that someone has forced me to eat when I didn't want to. And until I made this, I don't think I had eaten it since. Turns out, I love it!


Jessica said...

That story is incredibly cool!

I wish I had gone to an immersion camp--my Japanese ability has really gone down in the last few years...

Teena said...

Yeah, immersion camp was really fun -- I highly recommend!